100 questions & answers about gastroesophageal reflux by David L Burns; Neeral L Shah; Lahey Clinic

By David L Burns; Neeral L Shah; Lahey Clinic

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Additional info for 100 questions & answers about gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) : a Lahey Clinic guide

Sample text

As the refluxed acid comes in contact with your airway, it can cause other symptoms in your chest, including persistent coughing and irritation of your throat, which causes some people to feel like they constantly have to clear their throats. The irritation can become so severe that it may even affect your voice box, which can cause you to have a hoarse voice. Finally, it is thought that people whose airways are constantly affected by acid reflux can develop hypersensitive airways and that this may eventually lead to asthma or make asthma worse, requiring more asthma medication.

The LES blocks reflux by staying closed. This normal anatomy is required to maintain normal esophageal function because the diaphragm, ligaments, and circular muscle all contribute to the amount of pressure the LES can generate to block reflux. Normal anatomy can be lost as part of the aging process. The ligaments can stretch and the hole, or hiatus, in the diaphragm can enlarge. If this happens, part of the stomach can move up into the chest instead of normally staying in the abdomen. This condition is called a hiatus or hiatal hernia (see Figure 5).

Spicy, acidic, citrus, tomato-based, fatty, and fried foods can aggravate GERD symptoms. Some of these foods promote the production of more stomach acid, whereas others delay the stomach from emptying because they require more time for digestion to complete. By avoiding these types of foods, you can decrease the likelihood of GERD. Other types of foods, such as alcohol, chocolate, or peppermint, can also cause reflux by relaxing the LES, which lowers its pressure. Normally, the LES acts as a one-way valve that relaxes to open during a swallow but stays contracted between swallows as a barrier to reflux.

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