• Causes of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

    GERD results when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle becomes weakened. The LES sits at the juncture between the esophagus and the stomach and prevents food and stomach liquids from flowing back up into the esophagus.
    Weakening of the LES can be caused by the following factors and conditions:
    • Hiatal hernia : When the stomach and the LES protrude into the chest through the opening in the diaphragm normally occupied by the esophagus
    • Surgical destruction of the LES
    • Neurologic disorders or complications (from diabetes, for example) affecting the LES
    • Scleroderma : A disorder that affects esophageal motility
    • Congenital defects of the gastrointestinal or respiratory tracts
    • Certain medications, such as:
      • Bronchodilators
      • Calcium channel blockers
      • Aminophylline
      • Nitrates
      • Sildenafil (Viagra)
    Other factors that contribute to LES weakening include the following:
    • Smoking
    • Caffeinated beverages
    • Alcohol
    • Fatty foods, especially chocolate and fried foods
    Once the LES is weakened, other factors, such as an increase in pressure in the abdomen relative to the chest, can increase the risk of reflux. See Risk Factors for further details.


    American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

    The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 17th edition. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

    The Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.ctsnet.org/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.