GERD Symptoms : 5 Signs Including Heartburn and Flatulence

Common signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease

gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD symptoms

Ever had that yucky feeling when digested food gushes back up to your throat? Like you’re about to vomit but not really? 

Or maybe an unpleasant, tight, burning sensation in your chest? 

If yes, then you might be experiencing some symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). 

But what exactly is GERD and how do you identify it? 

What is GERD?

GERD is a digestive tract disorder that develops when gastric contents like food, fluid, and stomach acids frequently reflux up into the esophagus.

It’s one of the most common gastrointestinal ailments with around 20% prevalence in western countries.

GERD brings about pain, reduced social function, and worsened mental health. But that’s not all. It can also decrease an individual’s quality of life. 

That’s why although it’s relatively manageable, you should treat it sooner than later.  

Before we proceed to how GERD presents in the human body, let’s first discuss what may be causing this digestive tract disorder.

What are the causes of GERD?

Some of the primary causes of GERD include:

  • impaired esophageal motility
  • defective mucosal defense of the esophagus
  • lower esophageal sphincter (LES) dysfunction
  • reflux of gastric contents
  • delayed gastric emptying
  • hiatal hernia – the bulging of the upper portion of the stomach through a diaphragm opening

Most of these determinants are associated with an impairment of food transit along the digestive tract. 

Also, faulty esophageal motility and hiatal hernia greatly increase the chances of developing GERD.

That said though, the most crucial mechanism behind this disorder is still the abnormal transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs). 

This consequently allows the retrograde flow of acidic gastric contents into the esophagus. And this in turn further damages the lining of the tract. 

These events are interconnected and all contribute to the progression of GERD. 

Without prompt and proper handling of these factors, it may further result in complications.

In order to prevent that from happening, it is helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may present in a person with GERD.

So what are the signs and symptoms of GERD?

What are the signs and symptoms of GERD

Let’s look at some of the common GERD symptoms. 

1. Heartburn

Heartburn, also known as pyrosis, is the most typical symptom of GERD. 

Its name gives away its description which is the tight, burning sensation at the center of the chest just behind the sternum close to the heart. 

This uncomfortable feeling arises 30 min to 1 hr after a meal and often spreads upward the throat and sometimes, up to the jaw. 

Any of the six primary causes of GERD can elicit heartburn when inflammation in the chest occurs. 

Antacids and baking soda offer relief from heartburn as these remedies partially neutralize the digestive acids and reduce its harmful effects on the esophageal lining. 

If you frequently have episodes of heartburn, it is most likely that you do have GERD.

2. Food regurgitation

Aside from heartburn, regurgitation is also one of the cardinal symptoms of GERD. It is common in approximately 80% of GERD patients

While heartburn is widely observed in adults, infants experiencing gastroesophageal reflux are expected to show regurgitation of food instead. 

Food regurgitation, the passive backflow, or an up and down movement of incompletely digested food along the esophagus. It often results in a sour to the taste once it reaches the mouth. 

Avoiding large meals and doing physical activities such as bending exercises after eating. 

These actions tend to compress the stomach and consequently result in regurgitation. You many however consider walking after eating.

Also, frequent occurrence of food regurgitation for around 4 days a week is reported to cause significant negative impacts on a person’s quality of life.

It would be indeed a better life if the food you eat just stays inside until fully digested, right?

3. Dysphagia

Ever had the feeling of food sticking in your chest? And that it’s unable to go down the tummy as it should? 

You might be experiencing some swallowing difficulties. This is medically termed as dysphagia

This is another familiar symptom of GERD. And it may be due to a formation of abnormal esophageal stricture.

Around two-thirds of patients with severe and long-term GERD in Germany report having problems with swallowing food.

Rabeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor, was found to effectively treat GERD-associated dysphagia as observed in a 2005 study

4. Flatulence and Belching

Gas production is a normal phenomenon during the digestion of food in the gut. Swallowed air can also contribute to gastric gas. 

Sometimes, accumulated gas is released in a form of belches. It occurs when a reflex causes the esophageal sphincters to relax, allowing the air to move up and be released through the mouth. 

Trapped gas can also be freed by passage through the rectum known as flatulence.

Belching or burping and flatulence are natural ways to discharge stored gas from the digestive process. 

However, the excess of such occurrences may signify an abnormality such as in GERD.

Note that probiotics may cause gas. If you notice that you have an abnormal amount of gas lately, you should opt to seek a physician instead of just ignoring it.

5. Nausea

The fifth symptom of GERD is nausea or the sensation of wanting to vomit especially due to gastroesophageal discomfort.

Like belching and flatulence, nausea is an atypical symptom which could be indicative of GERD but may still overlap with other disorders. 

Fundoplication, a surgical method used to treat GERD as well as hiatal hernia was also found to be effective against GERD-associated nausea as confirmed in a study

Takeaway

GERD is a troublesome condition that affects the young and the old. 

When left untreated, this may result in a more critical disorder that can be complicated and costly to handle.

Keep in mind it’s best to consult and confirm it from a qualified physician.

However, early detection and management of the signs and symptoms of GERD is a helpful way of alleviating such disorder and preventing it from further serious developments. 

As a future doctor, providing relevant, interesting, and accurate health information is one of Julia's passion. Through her writing, she is pleased to share her knowledge on health, fitness, and nutrition to other people so that they may live a healthy, happy life.