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What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the name given to a very common condition which is due to the acid in the stomach washing back into the bottom of the esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the top of the stomach which carries food and fluids into the stomach when someone swallows). The 'gastroesophageal' part of the name refers to the lower esophagus that joins onto the top part of the stomach and 'reflux' is another name for back-washing of the stomach contents up into the lower part of the esophagus.

Common names for this condition would include 'heartburn' (the sensation of burning in the lower chest due to acid indigestion) or 'dyspepsia'. However, GERD can occur without these symptoms.

The stomach digests food by producing, amongst other things, a very strong acid. Our stomach lining is adapted to cope with being in contact with acid but the lining of the esophagus is not. Ordinarily this is not a problem because there is a valve-like mechanism at the lower end of the esophagus where it joins the stomach that allows food and fluid to pass one-way into the stomach but which does not allow the stomach acids to wash back the other way - even if you were to stand on your head!

In GERD cases, this valve-like mechanism stops working as effectively as it should. This allows the acidic stomach fluid up into the esophagus. This back-washing of the acid is called reflux. As a consequence, the lining of the esophagus becomes chemically burned.


What is GERD? - references

By Mortin - Copyright 2010
Last modification 05/02/2010