What is GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)?

GERD, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is the reflux of stomach acid from the stomach up into the esophagus. The mechanism that helps to control reflux is known as the lower esophageal sphincter. When it doesn't work properly acid is able to move upward from the stomach into the esophagus. Many times this process is also associated with a hiatal hernia. This means there is a weakness in the muscles in the opening where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm.

GERD is an abbreviation for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition that refers to damage to the lining of the lower esophagus caused as a result of frequent or prolonged exposure to stomach acid. The primary symptom is acid reflux (also known as heartburn), which is felt as a burning sensation in the pit of the stomach or in the middle of the chest beneath the breastbone. Sometimes pain can be felt between the shoulder blades or in the jaw or teeth.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroesophageal reflux, or GER, is the more common condition. Both are caused when the LES is weak or opens inappropriately and stomach contents flood into the esophagus causing a burning sensation or discomfort. When this type of reflux happens more than twice a week, it is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD can cause permanent damage to the esophagus and can be experienced with or without heartburn.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Nonulcer dyspepsia (NUD) is a medical term often used to label indigestion and/or heartburn that is not related to an ulcer. Another common term for similar symptoms is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The main symptoms of GERD are heartburn and/or upper abdominal pain.

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GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also is called acid reflux disease. Suffers experience almost-constant heartburn. Heartburn is the pain or discomfort felt from reflux, when the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, either randomly relaxes or doesn't close completely. Then stomach acid flows back into the esophagus.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It refers to frequent, ongoing back up of stomach acid into the esophagus, which connects the throat and stomach. This animation shows what happens in GERD.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the most common disorder of the upper intestinal tract, infecting a large percentage of the American population. GERD is also known as heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion. It is estimated that at least 47 percent of the American population takes medication for GERD at least once a month. For most people, GERD is a nuisance, but for 10 to 15 percent of people, it is a significant problem that can interfere with daily life.

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the liquid contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. Interestingly, the majority of people have reflux; however those with GERD have contents with a greater amount of acid that go higher into the esophagus and stay in contact with it longer.

Some of the risk factors for GERD include: obesity, having a hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, and diabetes and wearing tight pants.

Dr. Roshini C. Rajapaksa, MD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is caused when stomach acid refluxes back up into the esophagus, causing inflammation or pain. Watch gastroenterologist Roshini Raj, MD, discuss common symptoms like heartburn, coughing or trouble swallowing.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter opens spontaneously or does not close properly. Stomach contents rise up into the esophagus, causing irritation, heartburn and potentially other severe conditions. Chronic or longstanding reflux can lead to ulcers or premalignant changes in the lining of the esophagus. While usually acid, the refluxed material may be non-acid or bile and still be irritating. A hiatal or diaphragm hernia can also render the lower esophageal sphincter ineffective.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which food and acids in the stomach move back up into the esophagus. This is called reflux. Stomach acid from reflux can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn, indigestion and trouble swallowing. When reflux continues, it becomes GERD.

Dr. Kelly Traver

Large food portions increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when acidic stomach contents pass back up into the esophagus. This happens when the pressure in the stomach exceeds the pressure exerted by the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. Once the stomach acid reaches the esophagus, a little can be done to stop it from traveling to your throat, sinuses, larynx or lungs, especially after meals and at night when you are lying flat.

Dr. Lawrence S. Friedman, MD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle connecting the esophagus and stomach. The LES is a high-pressure zone that acts as a barrier to protect the esophagus against the backflow of gastric acid from the stomach.

Normally, the LES works something like a gate, opening to allow food to pass into the stomach and closing to keep food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES relaxes when it shouldn't or becomes weak, allowing contents of the stomach to rise up into the esophagus. Scientists aren't sure exactly why this happens. The LES is a complex segment of smooth muscle under the control of nerves and various hormones. As a result, dietary substances, drugs and nervous system factors can impair its function.

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates (backs up, or refluxes) into the esophagus. Some people reflux up food or liquids, while others reflux acid, so in truth GERD does not always equal acid reflux. But stomach liquids usually contain stomach acid and the enzyme pepsin, both of which can inflame and damage the lining of the esophagus. The refluxed liquid also may contain bile that has backed up into the stomach from the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine that attaches to the stomach. The acid is believed to be the most injurious component of the refluxed liquid, though pepsin and bile also may cause damage.

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GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. There is a muscle at the end of the esophagus that closes to prevent contents of the stomach from coming back up. Things that can weaken this muscle include a hernia in your stomach, elevated levels of calcium, and obesity. Once this muscle weakens, the acidic contents of the stomach can wash back, or reflux, into the lower esophagus. When this happens, you can experience pain, develop a chronic cough, wheeze, and have a foul taste in your mouth. There are many treatments for GERD, including medications and changing food, but the best treatment is to treat the underlying cause such as obesity.

Millions of Americans have GERD, a condition in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus because the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus is weak.

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when contents in the stomach flow back into the esophagus. This happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, does not close properly.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder with symptoms of heartburn in which stomach contents regurgitate (reflux) into the esophagus often causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus and occasionally to the lungs and vocal cords. Afflicting an estimated 25 million Americans, GERD has a variety of different causes.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops when the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which normally acts as a valve to let food enter the stomach, opens spontaneously or does not properly close, resulting in stomach contents backing up into the esophagus. This reflux, or backwash of food, acid and enzymes into the esophagus may cause a burning sensation in the throat or chest. If this occurs more than once or twice a week, such acid reflux is considered to be GERD, and may lead to serious health problems.

GERD irritates the esophagus and can lead to a narrowing and/or ulceration of the esophagus, a risk of Barrett's esophagus and a slightly increased risk of esophageal cancer.

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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.