What is GERD and What Causes This Condition?

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is caused by a reflux of the stomach acid into the esophagus. It occurs due to a weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. GERD can occur due to various conditions and factors including pregnancy, diet, smoking, obesity and more. Speak to your doctor to determine the cause and get an appropriate treatment plan if you often suffer with heartburn. 

Common Causes

There are various different factors that might lead to GERD. In some cases, it might be complex and involve several factors. Some of the most common include:


Being obese increases the pressure on the abdomen, which can worsen GERD symptoms. While the links between GERD and obesity are not yet fully understood, being obese is considered to be both a risk factor and a potential cause of developing GERD. 

Malfunctioning Lower Esophageal Sphincter

In most cases, people who suffer from GERD do so due to the LES relaxing. The LES is responsible for opening and closing the lower end of the esophagus, acting as a pressure barrier against stomach contents. When it is weak or too relaxed, the LES will not completely close after food has passed into the stomach, causing stomach acid to back up. Since the lining of the esophagus is not the same as the stomach and cannot handle acid as well, it can easily be injured. This can lead to scarring which might cause further complications like dysphagia, or an inability to swallow. People with this condition may need a soft diet or to use products like SimplyThick thickener gel


There are certain medications that might increase your risk of GERD or worsen the symptoms of this condition. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen can lead to gastrointestinal side effects. These medications can make esophageal irritation or heartburn worse by relaxing or weakening the LES and are commonly associated with causing peptic ulcers. For people who already have GERD, these medications can make the symptoms more severe. Long-term use of these medications may cause GERD to develop in otherwise healthy people. 


Smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke is another risk factor and potential cause of GERD. Smoking can cause heartburn in several ways, including decreasing the amount of saliva that you produce which creates more stomach acid and causes your stomach to empty more slowly. Quitting smoking if you are a smoker is one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing GERD or decrease symptoms of an existing condition. 


During pregnancy, the increase in progesterone and estrogen can contribute to relaxing of the LES. Along with this, a growing bump puts more pressure on the abdomen. Because of this, heartburn is a common symptom for pregnant people to experience, which is a risk factor for developing GERD. 

GERD is a condition that involves a reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. It can be a symptom of several conditions or caused by various lifestyle factors. 

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