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When the "chest burns": learn more about gastroesophageal reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiological phenomenon when it does not produce symptoms, is of short duration and occurs intermittently, particularly after meals.

When symptoms have chronic manifestation and periodicity, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, which includes the passage of gastric contents to the oesophagus, being considered the most common chronic disease of the upper digestive tract.

There are foods that promote gastroesophageal reflux such as tomato derivatives, citrus juice, chocolate, coffee and alcohol, in addition to substances such as tobacco and some medications (oestrogens and oral contraceptives).


The presence of gastroesophageal reflux is also related to increased intra-abdominal pressure (tight clothing, pregnancy, cough, obesity, sudden physical exercise that increases intra-abdominal pressure, constipation).

The most typical signs and symptoms are heartburn/heartburn and acid regurgitation. In heartburn, the individual reports a burning sensation in the chest, which can radiate to the neck, usually less than an hour after meals, worsening in the lying position. In regurgitation, the individual manifests that the food “returns to the mouth”, without the effort of vomiting.

The main tool for diagnosing reflux is the clinical history. However, because there are situations that can present similar symptoms (the case of peptic ulcer or gastritis), it is sometimes necessary to perform tests that allow the differential diagnosis: upper digestive endoscopy, radiography of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum or pH measurement oesophageal, among others.

Treatment includes several approaches: taking medication, surgery in more complicated cases and changing daily habits. Eat small meals, avoid the foods described above and carbonated drinks, do not lie down for 2 to 3 hours after the meal, and raise the head of the bed (approximately 15 centimetres).


5, September 2020