When experiencing an upset stomach, it is expected to feel acid regurgitation in the mouth and a burning sensation behind the sternum. The cause of these symptoms is usually gastroesophageal reflux, which affects about 80% of people and is a widespread disorder that may require a gastroenterologist’s attention.
So, what exactly is gastroesophageal reflux, and how can we counteract it?
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux?
During the day, especially after eating, acid from the stomach can physiologically pass into the esophagus. The same thing can occur when lying down. However, if these events increase in frequency and duration, it may indicate gastroesophageal reflux.
In Europe, 10-20% of the population is affected by gastroesophageal reflux. In this condition, stomach acids come into contact with the wall of the esophagus, causing a burning sensation behind the sternum and acid regurgitation.
Gastroesophageal Reflux: What are the Symptoms?
There are no definitive symptoms that apply to every person, but some common indicators include:
– Burning in the stomach and behind the sternum
– Feeling of nausea
– Acid regurgitation in the mouth
Often, these symptoms are mild and occasional. Other symptoms caused by stomach acid, which are not directly linked to stomach upset, may be related to reflux, such as laryngitis, dry cough or hoarseness, lowered voice, asthma, chest pain, otitis, and insomnia. If the disorder becomes persistent, it can lead to complications such as erosions in the esophagus (in 35% of cases), ulcers, or strictures (3-5%).
Gastroesophageal Reflux: The Importance of Changing One’s Daily Habits
Occasional gastroesophageal reflux can be treated by changing daily habits. It is essential to:
– Do not lie down immediately after meals
– See a specialist if overweight in order to lose weight and reduce your waistline
– Reduce fatty or huge meals, especially in the evening, and avoid fried foods
– Not smoke
– Avoid alcohol
– Reduce consumption of chocolate, coffee, and acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and mint
– Try to reduce stress
– Exercise (after a medical examination)
Gastroesophageal Reflux: When to Have a Gastroenterological Examination
Sometimes, even after changing lifestyle, symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux may continue to occur. In such cases, physicians recommend seeing a specialist for a thorough gastroenterological evaluation.
During the visit, the specialist collects all the patient’s clinical information to perform a detailed analysis of any existing gastroenterological issues. If necessary, the specialist may request a gastroscopy (EGDS), which involves introducing a small flexible probe with an embedded camera into the mouth to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.