Gastric reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and allows the stomach’s acidic contents to return to the esophagus. When hydrochloric acid comes in contact with the lining of the esophagus, it may cause acid indigestion or heartburn. This medical condition is also referred to as acid reflux disease or gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
Gastric Reflux Causes
Occasional gastric reflux is a common condition. If this health problem occurs more than twice a week, it is considered gastric reflux disease (GERD). Statistics show that 25 to 40 percent of Americans experience symptomatic gastric reflux disease at least once a month. Although gastric reflux is often associated with overeating, pregnancy, or obesity, it can affect people of all ages.
This medical condition can be brought on by acidic food or drink, including fried or fatty foods, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, citrus fruits, onions, chocolate, coffee, cola, milk, wine, and spirits. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which makes this condition worse. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, calcium channel blockers, and anticholinergic agents may cause gastric reflux as well.
How Does Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Manifest Itself?
The main symptoms of gastric reflux in adults include a painful or burning sensation in the chest or upper stomach, excess belching, breathing difficulties, indigestion, and dyspepsia. Gastric reflux symptoms may have no apparent cause. They usually occur after drinking alcohol or eating large, fatty meals. This medical condition is more common in smokers, pregnant women, and overweight individuals.
Gastro-esophageal reflux symptoms often mimic those of a heart attack. Patients diagnosed with gastric reflux experience various symptoms, both typical and atypical. This health condition causes daily episodes of symptomatic reflux, increased salivation (water brash), shortness of breath, blood in vomit, regurgitation, and heartburn. Atypical symptoms include pneumonia, chest pain, hoarseness, and asthma. Children with gastric reflux may experience nausea, coughing, repeated regurgitation, wheezing, laryngytis, and irritability. This condition is often overlooked in children and infants.
Researchers have found that gastric reflux may cause injury of the esophagus, including esophageal adenocarcinoma, reflux esophagitis, intestinal metaplasia of the distal esophagus, and esophageal strictures. Esophagitis can lead to ulcer, bleeding, and difficulty swallowing. When accompanied by esophageal injury, gastric reflux can cause pharyngitis, chronic cough, dentine hypersensitivity, and erosion of dental enamel.
Since gastric reflux symptoms mimic those triggered by other diseases, it is important for every individual to understand how this medical condition manifests itself. The intensity of symptoms may vary from one person to another. For most people, the discomfort associated with this health problem can affect quality of life and everyday activities. If left untreated, gastric reflux can last several months or longer.
Gastric reflux is usually treated with acid suppressants, antacids, and prokinetic agents. These medications increase the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, reduce the production of acid in the stomach, and alleviate gastric reflux symptoms. Numerous studies have shown that gastric reflux medication, when used in conjunction with a dietary plan, can reduce the discomfort associated with this condition.
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