Reflux disease can lead to various complaints

Many stomach complaints are caused by reflux. What is reflux disease and is there anything to be done about it?

What is reflux disease?

When there is frequent backflow of the contents of the stomach with gastric acid to the esophagus, then we talk about the reflux disease. Heartburn is a liquid that helps in the digestion of food in your stomach. Because the stomach wall is covered with a protective layer, the stomach acid can not cause any complaints there. However, our esophagus does not have such a protective layer. As a result, the stomach acid can lead to complaints (such as heartburn) and / or damage to the oesophageal mucosa.

Types of reflux

A distinction is made between 2 types of reflux:

  • Normal reflux
    With this strain you notice that the stomach contents rise.
  • Hidden reflux
    The stomach contents increase, but you do not notice this.

What are reflux complaints?

When someone suffers from reflux, this can cause various complaints:

  • Heartburn (also called heartburn) that comes in the mouth.
  • Farmers .
  • Burning sensation behind the sternum.
  • Pain behind the sternum. The pain can manifest itself in a pressing pain that may resemble heart problems.
  • Nausea.
  • Bloated feeling.
  • Coughing, as a result of stomach contents that regularly flows back to the throat.
  • Have difficulty swallowing.
  • Feeling that there is a lump in the throat.
  • Hoarseness.

Consequences of reflux disease

When there is a long and frequent backflow of stomach contents to the esophagus, this can have serious consequences in the long term. This way the esophagus can become irritated or even inflamed. The inflammation in the esophagus can lead to scarring and narrowing. In some cases reflux is so bad that it causes symptoms such as: difficulty breathing, asthma and bad teeth.

People whose esophagus is exposed to stomach acid for years can get a Barrett esophagus. The mucous membrane at the bottom of the esophagus is permanently damaged. Unfortunately, there are (still) no medicines that can repair this. People with Barrett’s esophagus have a slightly increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Fortunately, most people with chronic reflux complaints do not get Barrett’s esophagus. Why someone gets a Barrett esophagus and another is not (yet) known.

Cause of reflux disease

That the stomach contents can flow back is because the sphincter that connects the esophagus with the stomach does not close properly anymore. This can have a number of different causes:

  • A diaphragm rupture
    Due to a diaphragm rupture, the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and the stomach can no longer function properly and can therefore open.
  • A pregnancy
    Because the baby grows, there is less space for the stomach in the abdominal cavity. This increases the pressure on the stomach, as a result of which the sphincter can no longer close properly.
  • Overweight
    In the case of overweight, the pressure in the abdomen is greater than when there is no excess weight. This makes it easier for the acid to flow back to the esophagus.
  • A lazy stomach
    A lazy stomach (delayed gastric emptying), ensures that the food stays in the stomach longer than normal. As a result, there is a good chance that too much acid stomach contents will flow back into the esophagus.
  • Old age
    As a result of aging, the sphincter muscle can relax somewhat and close less well.
  • Certain foods
    Certain foods , including chocolate, peppermint and alcohol, can cause the sphincter to relax and stop the stomach from closing properly.
  • Smoking
    It is known that nicotine has the same effect as chocolate, peppermint and alcohol.

In principle, everyone can suffer from reflux, but in babies this stomach complaint occurs regularly. This is because their sphincter between esophagus and stomach is still insufficiently developed. As a result, they regularly spit out the milk that has just been drunk. The reflux complaints disappear as the child grows older.

What can you do yourself with reflux complaints?

The most important thing is to prevent the pressure increase in the abdomen. This can be done by:

  • By eating healthy and exercising a lot. This not only helps to prevent obesity, but also provides a soft relief.
  • It is advisable not to lay flat in the first hours after a meal.
  • By not eating just before bedtime.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat small meals so that you do not have a full stomach.
  • Make sure you drink enough and eat high-fiber foods to keep the stool soft and not to squeeze. Presses also increase the pressure in the abdomen.

The stomach acid is less likely to flow back to the esophagus when you raise the head of your bed by about 10 to 20 centimeters. You could do this with cushions or by putting the headboard on bobbins.

Treatment reflux disease

In some cases reflux complaints can be treated by taking gastric acid binders. If these do not help or if the symptoms continue to come back, gastric acid inhibitors can help.

The anti-reflux surgery is an operation that can be performed in people with severe reflux complaints caused by a diaphragm rupture. This operation is performed via a viewing operation.

When to your doctor?

Contact the doctor directly:

  • If the symptoms last longer than two weeks or if they worsen.
  • When suddenly you get severe pain in the stomach or behind your sternum.
  • When you have to vomit regularly.
  • The moment you surrender blood.
  • When the stool is black.
  • When you lose more than 5 kilos in a short time, for no apparent reason.


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