Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

What are the symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux?

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux, also referred to 'heartburn', 'indigestion' or just 'reflux', causes a range of symptoms including...

  • A slightly acidic taste in the mouth.
  • A sensation of burning in the throat or the mouth (hence 'heartburn').
  • A sore throat.
  • Pain in the chest.
  • Pain in the stomach.

Other, less common symptoms include...

  • Hoarseness.
  • Cough (with no other possible cause).

What causes Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux?

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux is caused by stomach acid escaping from the stomach into the oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth with the stomach). There is a ring shaped 'valve' at the junction of the stomach and the oesophagus (known as a 'sphincter') which ordinarily stops this from happening, but when it does it creates the burning sensation and the other symptoms listed above.

Where this continues to happen regularly it can lead to the development of GORD (sometimes abbreviated to GERD reflecting the US spelling) - Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux can affect people of any age, but tends to affect people aged over 40 more frequently.

How is Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux treated?

There are a number of options available to people suffering from reflux, both medication and changes to food/diet and other straightforward changes. Many people with the condition find relief by adopting the following changes...

  • Stopping or reducing cigarette smoking.
  • Drinking less alcohol or giving up alcohol.
  • Eating smaller meals.
  • Reducing any excess body weight.
  • Avoiding any foods or drinks that cause reflux. Fatty foods, chocolate and coffee are often implicated in the condition.
  • Waiting ideally at least three hours before lying down or going to bed after a meal.
  • Putting your bed on a slant (feet at the bottom, head at the top) - lifting the head end by around 15cm can alleviate symptoms.

Some medications can also alleviate symptoms, such as non-prescription antacids and antihistamines.

When should I get medical advice if I have Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux?

Generally speaking, if you have the condition continuously for up to a year and the treatment options set out here are not working, you should seek medical advice. There are also some other symptoms where you should immediately go and see your doctor - these are...

  • Where are you losing weight and you are not following a weight loss program.
  • Having difficulty swallowing.
  • A feeling that food is getting stuck after swallowing.
  • Blood present in vomit.
  • Blood present in the faeces.
  • Chest pain.

What if my child has Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux?

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux may be a more serious problem in children and it is important to take your child to your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed here, and to do this before trying to treat with over the counter medicines.