Gastric reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach move into the esophagus. This complication is also called acid reflux. If you experience its symptoms more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Therefore, it is better to see a gastroenterologist.
Gastric reflux disease affects about 20% of people. If left untreated, the persistence of gastric reflux can lead to severe problems, including cancer or other gastrointestinal diseases.
Gastric reflux occurs when acid and other stomach contents return to the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal valve is a ring-shaped muscular valve at the esophagus’s end and the stomach’s beginning.
By opening this valve, the swallowed food enters the stomach from the end of the esophagus. After food enters the stomach, this valve closes to prevent food from returning to the esophagus. When this valve is weakened or damaged, it may not function properly. This is what causes gastric reflux.
Doctors believe that if the symptoms of gastric reflux occur more than twice a week, it is likely that the person has this disease.
In classic reflux, stomach contents usually rise only in the esophagus and do not reach the pharynx. classic reflux symptoms appear mainly in the form of heartburn (heartburn).
The symptoms of gastric reflux vary according to the organ affected by stomach acid. Not all people experience the same symptoms. Reflux symptoms range from mild to severe and usually occur after eating (especially spicy or fatty food) and when lying down or bending over.
Symptoms of gastric reflux include the following:
Pain or heartburn accompanied by a burning sensation in the chest; This burning may also reach the throat.
Bitter or sour taste in the throat. In some cases, some of the food or liquid in the stomach may return to the mouth.
Indigestion is accompanied by pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen. Symptoms of indigestion include stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, and an annoying feeling of fullness.
Sometimes, problems with swallowing sometimes disturb the person’s breathing.
Sore throat, severe hiccups, or vomiting.
If you are familiar with the above signs and symptoms or experience them occasionally, seeing your doctor as soon as possible is better.
Many people suffer from reflux. In these people, the stomach contents move backward and against the natural direction, even up to the throat. When the stomach contents reach the throat with this reverse movement, it is called laryngopharyngeal reflux.
Gastric secretions are rich in acid and enzymes that we need to digest food in the stomach. Naturally, these substances cause damage to the tissues of that part (throat and larynx) in any place other than the stomach and intestines.
As we said in laryngeal-laryngeal reflux, stomach secretions damage the vocal cords and larynx and inflame the larynx. Inflammation of the larynx is called laryngitis; in this case, the name reflux laryngitis is applied to it.
The symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux are primarily as follows:
Note that the symptoms caused by laryngeal-laryngeal reflux are very similar to other diseases of the throat and larynx. It is suggested to consult an otolaryngologist at the same time as an internist or general practitioner to ascertain the cause of this problem.
People with laryngopharyngeal reflux are less likely to complain of heartburn. Heartburn occurs due to the return of stomach contents to the esophagus and inflammation in the esophagus wall. This disease is called classic reflux or gastroesophageal reflux.
Although we know that stomach contents pass through the esophagus to reach the pharynx, it is not well understood why people with laryngopharyngeal reflux experience less heartburn.
The above symptoms, especially heartburn, are good signs for diagnosing gastric reflux. If the treating doctor suspects gastric reflux, he asks the patient to perform some related examinations and tests before diagnosis and confirmation.
Swallowing a solution containing barium substance: imaging the digestive system is impossible under normal conditions. Drinking a solution containing barium makes it possible to take pictures of the digestive system. This method is used to diagnose gastric reflux.
Endoscopy: A flexible tube with a tiny camera is sent into the esophagus for examination and sampling (if needed).
Esophageal pH monitoring: A pH meter is inserted into the esophagus to monitor the entry of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Esophageal tonometry: A flexible tube is passed into the esophagus to measure the strength of the muscles in the esophagus.
Possible side effects of acid reflux
In most people, gastric reflux does not cause serious complications. However, in rare cases, it can lead to severe or even life-threatening problems.
Possible complications of reflux include the following:
Having some lifestyle behaviors can also increase this risk, for example:
Anxiety may worsen some symptoms of reflux. If you suspect that anxiety is worsening your symptoms, talk to your gastroenterologist about ways to relieve it.
Limit your interactions with experiences, people, and places that cause anxiety.
Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Modify your sleeping habits, daily exercise, or other lifestyle behaviors.
Changing your lifestyle and diet is one of the most effective ways to prevent and treat gastric reflux. Some points to keep in mind in the treatment of gastric reflux are:
Depending on the progress and seriousness of the disease, the ways to treat reflux can be different. Sometimes the patient can control his disease without needing chemical drugs, using acupuncture or other herbal and home remedies, and gradually learn how to tolerate it.
Sometimes, the course of the disease is so fast and robust that visiting a doctor, receiving a controlled treatment guide and using stomach and digestive drugs such as ranitidine, pantoprazole, lansoprazole and omeprazole should be done as soon as possible.
In most cases, lifestyle modification and drug therapy are sufficient to relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. However, sometimes, surgery is also necessary. Surgery may be recommended if other solutions are ineffective or side effects occur. There are many different types of surgery to treat acid reflux.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder affecting the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach. This loop is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Patients with gastric reflux suffer from heartburn or indigestion. Some doctors say a hiatal hernia can cause gastric reflux. Fortunately, in most cases, gastric reflux can be treated with lifestyle changes and a suitable diet, but some sufferers must go for drug treatment or even surgery.
See a gastroenterologist if you experience severe or frequent reflux symptoms or have used over-the-counter heartburn medications more than twice a week and still have not improved.
Dr. Majid Zohrabi started treating his patients in Dubai in 2022 and continues his activities in private medical centers in the UAE.