Gastroesophageal (gas-troh-ih-sof-uh-jee-uhl) gastēr - Greek for "stomach" esophageal - Adjective for "esophagus" oisophagos - Greek for "gullet" or "entrance to the stomach" Oisophagos (ee-SAH-fuh-gus) oisos - Greek for "equal" phagein - Greek for "to eat" Reflux (ee-SAH-fuh-gus) refluere - Latin for "to flow back"
In ancient Egypt, a medical papyrus from around 1550 BC called the "Ebers Papyrus" contains a section on diseases of the stomach and intestines. However, it is unknown if the texts are referencing GERD because the papyrus is written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - which is a dead language - and subject to interpretation and translation over time. Similarly, ancient Chinese and Indian medical texts also describe symptoms that are consistent with acid reflux. Throughout history, acid reflux was often attributed to a variety of factors, including diet, stress, and an imbalance of bodily fluids. It wasn't until the 19th century that medical researchers began to study the condition in greater detail, with the use of new diagnostic tools such as the endoscope. In the 1930s, researchers identified a link between acid reflux and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. They found that when the LES is weak or damaged, it can allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation.
Sometimes called acid reflux, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common condition that occurs when the contents of the stomach, including acid, flow back up into the esophagus, causing discomfort and irritation. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. It affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that separates the esophagus and the stomach. It occurs when the stomach's gastric acid flows back into the esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, nausea, belching, hiccups, sour taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing, hoarseness, laryngitis, sleep disturbance, and even asthma. The symptoms of GERD can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and a sour taste in the mouth. These symptoms can be relieved by taking over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications, but it is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
GERD can be caused by several factors, including a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscle that keeps the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus, and obesity, which can increase pressure on the LES. Other factors that can contribute to GERD include eating large meals, lying down soon after eating, and eating certain foods, such as spicy or fatty foods. A common cause of GERD is a condition called hiatal hernia, where the stomach bulges up into the chest through the diaphragm. Lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, eating large meals, lying down after eating, and consuming trigger foods (such as fatty or spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and mint) can also contribute to the development of GERD.
Treatment options for GERD include medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), histamine-2 (H2) blockers, and antacids. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoidance of trigger foods, and elevation of the head while sleeping can also help manage symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to strengthen the LES. It is important to consult with a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, as untreated GERD can lead to serious complications such as damage to the esophagus and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.