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What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic, often progressive disease caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that allows acid and bile to reflux, or flow back, from the stomach into the esophagus.  The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that functions as the body’s natural barrier to reflux. The LES acts like a valve, allowing food and liquid to pass through to the stomach. Normally, the LES resists opening to gastric pressures to prevent reflux.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Animation

In people with GERD, the LES is weak and allows acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus, often causing injury to the lining of the esophagus and symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and cough.

An estimated 1 in 5 U.S. adults suffer from GERD.  GERD can be debilitating, causing daily pain, leading to poor sleep, affecting food tolerance and limiting daily activities.  When left untreated, GERD can lead to potentially serious complications including esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), stricture (narrowing/scarring of the esophagus), and Barrett’s esophagus (precancerous changes to the esophagus).  The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer linked to GERD, increased over 600% between 1973 and 2006.

Medications for GERD are designed to control or suppress acid production in the stomach.  They DO NOT address the cause of GERD and cannot prevent reflux.  Approximately 40% of GERD sufferers continue to have symptoms while taking medications for GERD.

According to the FDA, long-term use of PPIs, a class of GERD medication, may have adverse effects including: osteoporotic fracture risk, Clostridium difficile infection, low magnesium levels, and increase in cardiac arrhythmias.