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What Causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

GERD occurs when a circular ring of muscle that connects the lower end of the gut to the stomach is weak and/or relaxed or if the stomach pushes up through a hole in the diaphragm (large flat muscle at the base of the lungs) muscle.

When it’s working properly, it relaxes and opens when you swallow. Then it tightens and closes again afterwards. Acid reflux happens when your LES doesn’t tighten or close properly. This allows digestive juices and other contents from your stomach to rise up into your oesophagus.

The following factors may increase your risk of getting GERD: 

  • Ageing
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity 
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Over-eating and having a dietary intake of spicy/fatty/tomato-based foods, chocolate, orange juice, caffeinated/carbonated drinks, alcohol, peppermint and onions  
  • Use of certain medications like codeine, nifedipine, salbutamol, prazosin, ibuprofen, iron salts and alendronate
  • Medical conditions like anxiety, depression, peptic ulcer disease and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)

Acid regurgitation. Acidic stomach contents rise into the throat or mouth. 

Other symptoms of GERD include swallowing difficulty, nausea, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, hoarseness, wheezing, teeth erosion, ear infections and severe pain which can sometimes be mistaken as a heart attack.