Gastrooesophageal reflux – a common problem, where the contents of the stomach flow into the oesophagus. The oesophagus is not adapted to receive such an acidic “gift”, so we often experience a range of unpleasant symptoms.
From the beginning
The stomach produces about 2.5 litres of gastric juice a day, and two ducts – the oesophageal duct ensures that stomach contents do not rise back up, and the duodenal duct ensures that acid does not enter the small intestine, which would cause a great deal of unpleasantness both there and in the small intestines. That’s why stomach acid has to work in the stomach.
Why do we need it?
Stomach acid is very important and has the following functions:
- breaks down proteins into amino acids
- activates digestive enzymes such as lipases and proteases.
Why is the stomach itself not afraid of acid, but the oesophagus and pharynx are?
The stomach lining is adapted to stomach acid. All the trouble starts when stomach acid goes where it shouldn’t go. All other mucous membranes, from the oesophagus to the mouth and small intestine, are not adapted to this acid.
GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease – the origin of this disease is not entirely clear, but it has been shown to be caused by a disrupted stomach acid barrier or a weakened oesophagus.
Gastrooesophageal reflux – a common problem. GERD can cause:
- increased pressure in the stomach – large amounts of food and intense coughing.
- weakness of the oesophageal sphincter – alcohol, drugs, hiatal hernias, obesity.
Symptoms are typical – a burning sensation behind the sternum or pain that worsens after eating or lying down. Often, stomach acid “reaches” the pharynx, mouth and bronchi. It can then cause coughing, laryngitis – a hoarseness of the voice – and sinusitis. May cause erosion of tooth enamel.
What to do?
It is always a good idea to start by changing your habits:
- Reducing weight
- Raise the headboard
- Do not eat for 2-3 hours. before bedtime
- Five no’s – Fizzy drinks, alcohol, coffee, spicy, fatty foods
Medication treatment is always given with lifestyle changes.
If you are suffering from this or other problems, you can consult our family doctor.