What Causes GERD?
GERD is often the result of conditions that affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES, a muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus, opens to let food in and closes to keep food in the stomach. When this muscle relaxes too often or for too long, acid refluxes back into the esophagus, causing vomiting or heartburn.
Everyone has gastroesophageal reflux from time to time. If you have ever burped and had an acid taste in your mouth, you have had reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter occasionally relaxes at inopportune times, and usually, all your child will experience is a bad taste in the mouth or a mild, momentary feeling of heartburn.
Infants are more likely to have the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relax when it should remain shut. As food or milk is digesting, the LES opens and allows the stomach contents to go back up the esophagus. Sometimes, the stomach contents go all the way up the esophagus, and the infant or child vomits. Other times, the stomach contents only go part of the way up the esophagus, possibly causing heartburn or breathing problems.
Some foods seem to affect the muscle tone of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing it to stay open longer than normal. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- High-fat foods
- Citrus foods
- Tomatoes and tomato sauces