Most individuals with heartburn/acid reflux can be treated successfully with medication and minor behavioral modifications. When these measures don’t work, many people assume their reflux is caused by what they eat and that the discomfort and pain is untreatable. They assume incorrectly that heartburn is just something they have to live with. This is not necessarily true. The return to a normal life without food restrictions starts with a better understanding of what causes your heartburn and what can be done to provide permanent relief.

Dr. Gillian and the Heartburn Center at Inova Alexandria Hospital Center offer studies to assess the cause and can create an optimal course of treatment to help you enjoy your life.Q

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach.

Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus. Reflux means to flow back or return. Therefore, gastroesophageal reflux is the return of the stomach’s contents back up into the esophagus.

In normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES is weak or relaxes inappropriately, allowing the stomach’s contents to flow up into the esophagus.

Doctor Gillian discusses GERD in depth in this video.

Hiatal hernias occur when the stomach and esophagus slide up through the diaphragm into the chest. It is not a hernia in the abdominal wall just below the sternum as many patients presume. Sometimes pain is experienced in that area but it is not where the defect occurs. Typical symptoms are heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Paraesophageal hernias are more complicated defects that occur when part of the stomach is squeezed up into the chest beside the esophagus. The stomach can be strangulated, restricting blood supply to the related tissues

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