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What are risk factors that contribute to GERD?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Fat doesn't just pose problems for your belly and subway turnstiles; it also can mess with your throat. About half of obese people have the chest-burning condition called GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease).

The thinking is that extra fat in the belly pushes down on your stomach, thereby opening the angle of the GE junction and pushing it toward the chest (it's at an acute angle to keep food from going back up your throat every time you eat). The more open angle makes it easier for acid and food to be pushed back up. Plus, the extra fat in the belly puts pressure on the contents of our bowel. More pressure, more GERD.

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For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers are unraveling biological secrets about such things as why you crave chocolate or gorge at buffets or store so much fat.Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, America's most trusted doctor team and authors of the bestselling YOU series, are now translating this cutting-edge information to help you shave inches off your waist. They're going to do it by giving you the best weapon against fat: knowledge. By understanding how your body's fat-storing and fat-burning systems work, you're going to learn how to crack the code on true and lifelong waist management.Roizen and Oz will invigorate you with equal parts information, motivation, and change-your-life action to show you how your brain, stomach, hormones, muscles, heart, genetics, and stress levels all interact biologically to determine if your body is the size of a baseball bat or of a baseball stadium. In YOU: On a Diet, Roizen and Oz will redefine what a healthy figure is, then take you through an under-theskin tour of the organs that influence your body's size and its health. You'll even be convinced that the key number to fixate on is not your weight, but your waist size, which best indicates the medical risks of storing too much fat.Because the world has almost as many diet plans as it has e-mail spammers, you'd think that just about all of us would know everything there is to know about dieting, about fat, and about the reasons why our bellies have grown so large. YOU: On a Diet is much more than a diet plan or a series of instructions and guidelines or a faddish berries-only eating plan. It's a complete manual for waist management. It will show you how to achieve and maintain an ideal and healthy body size by providing a lexicon according to which any weight-loss system can be explained. YOU: On a Diet will serve as the operating system that facilitates future evolution in our dieting software. After you learn about the biology of your body and the biology and psychology of fat, you'll be given the YOU Diet and YOU Workout. Both are easy to learn, follow, and maintain. Following a two-week rebooting program will help you lose up to two inches from your waist right from the start.With Roizen and Oz's signature accessibility, wit, and humor, YOU: On a Diet -- The Owner's Manual for Waist Management will revolutionize the way you think about yourself and the food you consume, so that you'll diet smart, not hard. Welcome to your body on a diet.

Nicotine products—cigars, cigarettes or gum to help stop smoking—cause the valve at the top of the stomach to relax, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Smoking also can irritate an esophagus already tender from the backflow of stomach acid.

Acid reflux affects as many as 20 percent of Americans. But who is at risk for GERD? Sharmila Anandasabapathy, MD, a gastroenterologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, explains which risk factors are associated with heartburn.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when there is an imbalance between the normal defense mechanisms of the esophagus and offensive factors such as acid and other digestive juices and enzymes in the stomach. Often, the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus is impaired by weakening of the muscle (lower esophageal sphincter) or the presence of a hiatal hernia, where part of the stomach is displaced into the chest. Hiatal hernias, however, are common, and not all people with a hiatal hernia have reflux. A major cause of reflux is obesity, whereby increased pressure in the abdomen overcomes the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, excess alcohol use and consumption of a variety of foods such as coffee, citrus drinks, tomato-based products, chocolate, peppermint and fatty foods may also contribute to reflux symptoms.

Risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Ssmoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Having a hiatal hernia where the stomach moves up above the diaphragm
  • Diabetes
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Asthma

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.