011 482-3010



Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly known as GERD, is a prevalent and chronic condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide a detailed examination of GERD, from its underlying causes and symptoms to various management strategies, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis and holistic care.


Understanding GERD


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly known as GERD, is a chronic and often bothersome condition characterized by the frequent backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.

This reflux of acid can lead to irritation and inflammation of the esophageal lining, causing a range of symptoms that extend beyond occasional heartburn.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of GERD, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and management.


The Anatomy of GERD


At the core of GERD lies a malfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

Normally, the LES opens to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes to prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

In individuals with GERD, the LES may weaken or relax abnormally, allowing stomach acid to splash into the esophagus.


gerd causes risks - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Causes, Symptoms, and Management Strategies

Causes and Risk Factors


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is caused by the abnormal reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus.

Several factors contribute to this condition, and it often results from a combination of anatomical, lifestyle, and physiological factors.

Here are some of the key contributors to the development of GERD:


  1. Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Dysfunction:
  • Normal Function: The LES is a muscular ring at the junction of the esophagus and stomach. Its role is to act as a valve, allowing food to enter the stomach and preventing stomach contents, including acid, from flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Dysfunction: In individuals with GERD, the LES may weaken or relax inappropriately, allowing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus.


  1. Hiatal Hernia:
  • Description: A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity.
  • Contribution to GERD: Hiatal hernias can weaken the LES, making it easier for stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus.


  1. Obesity:
  • Increased Intra-abdominal Pressure: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, increases intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure can contribute to the weakening of the LES and promote acid reflux.


  1. Pregnancy:
  • Increased Pressure: During pregnancy, the growing uterus can exert pressure on the stomach and LES. Hormonal changes, such as the hormone progesterone, can also contribute to LES relaxation.


  1. Lifestyle Factors:
  • Diet: Certain foods and beverages can trigger or worsen GERD symptoms. These may include spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Smoking: Smoking can weaken the LES and contribute to increased acid reflux.
  • Eating Habits: Overeating and lying down or going to bed shortly after a meal can increase the risk of acid reflux.


  1. Delayed Stomach Emptying (Gastroparesis)
  • Description: Gastroparesis is a condition where the stomach takes longer than normal to empty its contents.
  • Contribution to GERD: Delayed stomach emptying can lead to an accumulation of stomach contents, increasing the likelihood of acid reflux.


  1. Connective Tissue Disorders:

Conditions such as scleroderma and systemic sclerosis can affect the connective tissues of the body, including the LES, leading to dysfunction and increased risk of GERD.


  1. Age:
  • Decreased LES Tone:
    As individuals age, there may be a natural decline in the tone and function of the LES, making older adults more susceptible to GERD.


Understanding these factors and their interplay is crucial for both preventing and managing GERD.

Lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and, in some cases, medical or surgical interventions are key components of effective GERD management.

Individuals experiencing persistent symptoms should seek medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


gerd symptoms - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Causes, Symptoms, and Management Strategies 

The Spectrum of GERD Symptoms


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can manifest with a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.

It’s important to note that not everyone with GERD experiences the same set of symptoms, and some individuals may have atypical symptoms. Here are the common symptoms associated with GERD:


  1. Heartburn:
  • Description: A burning sensation in the chest, often behind the breastbone, that can move upward toward the neck and throat.
  • Triggers: Typically occurs after meals, especially when lying down or bending over.


  1. Regurgitation:
  • Description: The sensation of stomach contents, including acid, flowing back into the throat or mouth.
  • Taste: May be accompanied by a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.


  1. Chest Pain:
  • Description: Some people with GERD experience chest pain that can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Characteristics: The chest pain associated with GERD is usually burning and may radiate to the back, neck, or jaw.


  1. Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing):
  • Description: A sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest.
  • Occurrence: Typically occurs when swallowing solid foods.


  1. Chronic Cough:
  • Description: A persistent cough that is not related to a respiratory infection or other known causes.
  • Triggers: Coughing may be worse at night or upon waking.


  1. Hoarseness or Sore Throat:
  • Description: Irritation of the vocal cords due to exposure to stomach acid.
  • Symptoms: May include a raspy voice, persistent sore throat, or the feeling of a lump in the throat (globus sensation).


  1. Wheezing or Asthma-Like Symptoms:
  • Description: GERD can exacerbate asthma symptoms or contribute to the development of wheezing in some individuals.
  • Triggers: Acid reflux may trigger or worsen symptoms in individuals with pre-existing asthma.

gerd diagnosis - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Causes, Symptoms, and Management Strategies

Diagnosing GERD


Diagnosing GERD involves a combination of clinical evaluation and diagnostic tests.

Healthcare providers often rely on the patient’s medical history and symptom presentation.

Endoscopy, esophageal pH monitoring, and imaging studies may be employed to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.


Lifestyle Modifications


Lifestyle modifications are foundational in managing GERD symptoms. This includes dietary adjustments, such as avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals, and refraining from lying down after eating.

Weight management, cessation of smoking, and elevating the head of the bed can also contribute to symptom relief.


Pharmacological Interventions


Pharmacological interventions are commonly employed to reduce the production of stomach acid.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers are among the medications prescribed to alleviate symptoms.

However, these medications are not without potential side effects, and their long-term use is carefully evaluated.

gerd endoscope - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Causes, Symptoms, and Management Strategies

Surgical Options


For individuals who do not respond to conservative measures or have severe complications, surgical interventions may be considered.

Fundoplication, a procedure that involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus to reinforce the LES, is one of the surgical options for GERD.


Complications and Long-Term Risks


Untreated or inadequately managed GERD can lead to complications.

Chronic exposure to stomach acid may result in Barrett’s esophagus, a condition characterized by changes in the esophageal lining that increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Recognizing and addressing these long-term risks is crucial in GERD management.


Integrative and Holistic Approaches


Holistic approaches to GERD care involve considering the interconnectedness of physical and mental health.

Stress management, mindfulness practices, and dietary modifications beyond acid-avoidance can contribute to a comprehensive strategy for managing GERD.




In conclusion, GERD is a multifaceted condition that requires personalized management.

Empowering individuals with knowledge about its causes, symptoms, and various management strategies is key to navigating life with GERD and enhancing overall well-being.

Dr. Schneider
is located at the Mill Park Hospital, Parktown, Johannesburg.

Services offered include consultation, and endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy, colonoscopy and video capsule endoscopy.


For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of gluten intolerance in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.



The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.