Causes GERD & Other Cuases Related To
To Look For And What To Expect
What Causes GERD and Acid Reflux?
Compared to the relatively simple
definition of what GERD is, what causes GERD is much more complicated.
For the sake of providing you with a good working idea of the causes of
GERD without boring you to tears, we’ve provided you with a
thumbnail sketch of each of the main causes of GERD. For more
information about any of these causes, we suggest you consult your
primary care physician.
Production of Acid.
Believe it or not, only a small
percentage of GERD
sufferers are afflicted with the
their bodies produce an abnormally high amount of acid. Although it is
a small segment of the GERD population, excess acid production can be a
cause of the disease. In this instance, a sufferer simply produces more
acid than the body knows what to do with and the refluxed acid has an
unusually high degree of potency and can cause damage.
Lower Esophageal Sphincter
As you know the esophagus connects
your throat to your stomach. Where your esophagus and stomach meet, a
ring of muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, serves as a
connector. Typically, the muscle is constricted so the contents of the
stomach stay exactly where you want them to—in the stomach.
However, when you are eating, the muscle relaxes momentarily to allow
your food and liquids to make their way from the esophagus to the
stomach. Basically, the lower esophageal sphincter acts as the gateway
from your esophagus to your stomach.
However, for many GERD
lower esophageal sphincter is not performing its job correctly.
Typically, there are two problems with lower esophageal sphincter that
can cuase GERD.
Weak muscle contraction. The lower
esophageal sphincter in some GERD sufferers is extremely weak. In other
words, it just doesn’t close off the gateway between the
stomach and the esophagus effectively. This “partially open
door” allows acid to reflux more readily into the esophagus
and cause damage.
Transient lower esophageal sphincter
relaxations—Don’t worry; it’s not as
complicated as it may sound. During normal swallowing, your lower
esophageal sphincter relaxes for a few seconds to allow your food and
liquids to pass through. However, in some GERD sufferers, the lower
esophageal sphincter will relax at random times and not during eating.
These “relaxations” also last for up to several
minutes. During this time, the “gate” is wide open
and acid can reflux into the esophagus unobstructed.
The ways in which hiatal hernias
contribute to GERD
is not entirely clear. However, a majority of GERD
sufferers have hiatal hernias. At this point, you might be asking
yourself, “What is a hiatal hernia?”
That’s a great question.
In normal individuals, the diaphragm
surrounds the lower esophageal sphincter where it connects with the
stomach. For GERD sufferers, a small part of the upper
stomach—the esophageal sphincter and the diaphragm.
wondering how this condition causes
GERD, you’ve asked
another great question. At its most basic, the diaphragm is thought to
help the lower esophageal sphincter contract and keep the gateway
between the esophagus and the stomach closed during all times except
When a hiatal hernia presents itself,
the ability of the diaphragm to help the lower esophageal sphincter is
seriously compromised. As a result reflux can be greatened and acid can
do its damage in the esophagus.
There are two additional ways that a
hiatal hernia can cause reflux problems:
In the event of a
hiatal hernia, a small portion of the upper stomach pushes its way past
the lower esophageal sphincter. Because the lower esophageal sphincter
is a muscle, it effectively pinches off this part of the stomach from
the rest of the stomach. In this “sac” acid can
build up. The built up acid is ready and waiting for the lower
esophageal sphincter to relax at which time the reflux can easily
re-enter the esophagus.
In normal individuals, the esophagus connects at angle to the stomach.
At the place where they connect, a flap of skin serves like a doorway
to the stomach. In normal functioning, the door works with the lower
esophageal sphincter and opens during swallowing and closes afterwards
to prevent reflux. However, with a hiatal hernia, the angle at which
the stomach and esophagus connect is altered and the doorway can become
ineffective. No longer able to keep a good seal between the stomach and
the esophagus, reflux can work its way back into the esophagus.
As we’ve seen, swallowing
plays an important part in getting your food and liquids from your
mouth to your stomach. In addition, we’ve seen how swallowing
can help rid the esophagus of extra reflux. However, many GERD
sufferers experience irregular swallowing abilities.
In other words, the regular ability to
push food from the top of the esophagus through to the stomach is not
always possible for GERD sufferers. The inability of the esophagus to
work as it should allows build up of reflux that would otherwise be
pushed back down into the stomach. The excess reflux can then lead to