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Valentina Carlile Osteopata
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Gastroesophageal reflux


Reflusso gastroesofageo


Gastroesophageal reflux is a widespread condition that affects millions of people, manifesting with symptoms that can range from occasional mild irritation to chronic complaints that require medical management. This article offers a detailed look at what gastroesophageal reflux is, how it occurs, its causes, possible complications, and ways to treat it effectively.


What is gastroesophageal reflux?

Gastroesophageal reflux, often abbreviated as GERD (from Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease), occurs when acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus, the duct that connects the mouth to the stomach. This phenomenon is not only uncomfortable, but can cause significant damage if left unchecked. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a sensation of heat or pain that can rise from the stomach to the throat.


Common sym

Symptoms of reflux can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation that may start in the stomach and radiate upward to the throat.

  • Acid regurgitation: A return of acidic food or liquid from the stomach to the mouth.

  • Chest pain: Painful sensations that can be mistaken for a heart attack.

  • Difficulty swallowing: Sensation of a bolus in the throat or as if food does not go down easily.

  • Chronic cough or laryngitis: Irritation of the larynx and upper respiratory tract can be caused by aspiration of small amounts of stomach acid.


Causes and risk factors


The causes of gastroesophageal reflux can be many and often interrelated:

  • Weak or released lower esophageal sphincter: Normally, this sphincter acts as a valve that closes the entrance to the stomach. If it is not functioning properly, it allows acid and food to return to the esophagus.

  • Obesity: Excess weight can increase pressure on the abdomen, pushing stomach contents back into the esophagus.

  • Pregnancy: Similar to obesity, pregnancy can increase internal pressure and promote reflux.

  • Smoking: Smoking can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and aggravate reflux symptoms.

  • Diet: Fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol can aggravate the condition.


Possible complications

When gastroesophageal reflux is not properly treated, significant and serious complications can emerge that progressively worsen the patient's condition. Among these, erosive esophagitis is particularly common; this is a chronic inflammation of the esophagus that can lead to the formation of erosions or ulcers, causing pain and difficulty in swallowing. Another fearsome complication is esophageal stricture, where scar tissue formed as a result of chronic inflammation causes narrowing of the esophagus, further complicating food ingestion. Finally, one of the most severe consequences is Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition in which the cells lining the esophagus undergo a transformation in their shape and composition. This transformation greatly increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer, making timely prevention and treatment of reflux essential.


Management and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease

Effective management of gastroesophageal reflux requires a broad approach that includes lifestyle changes, pharmacological treatment, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention. Recommended lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating smaller and more frequent meals, avoiding foods that trigger reflux, and not lying down immediately after meals, can significantly decrease reflux symptoms. Pharmacologically, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 receptor antagonists are used to reduce acidity and relieve discomfort. In more resistant cases, surgery, such as Nissen fundoplication, may be necessary to strengthen the esophageal sphincter. Osteopathy offers valuable support through techniques that improve diaphragm and spinal mobility, and abdominal organ function, relieving intra-abdominal pressure and optimizing posture to reduce reflux symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life.


Understanding gastroesophageal reflux and its symptoms is essential to identify the problem early and seek appropriate treatment. If you suspect you are suffering from this disorder, it is important to consult a health professional. In future articles, we will explore treatment options in more detail, including the osteopathic approach, and look at management strategies for living well despite reflux.



 

Valentina Carlile - Osteopath experienced in Osteopathy applied to Voice and Speech disorders since 2002. For information and reservations visit Contacts



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