Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly, and stomach contents splash back, or reflux, into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle located at the far end of the esophagus as it leads into the stomach. It’s normal function is to act as a physical barrier between the esophagus and the stomach, protecting the esophagus from harmful gastric acid, and preventing food from being regurgitated. It does this by involuntary tonic contraction.
When one eats, food is propelled into the esophagus toward the stomach.It is during swallowing that the LES relaxes and allows passage of food and liquids into the stomach. When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, and this is called acid indigestion. Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, which can eventually lead to more serious health problems. What are the symptoms of GERD? The main symptoms of GERD can be divided into typical and atypical symptoms.