What are the risk factors and causes of GERD?

GERD is one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal disorders. Nearly 7% of persons in the U.S. experience heartburn daily, 20% experience it monthly, and 60% experience it intermittently. Incidence in pregnant women exceeds 80%.

Scientists do not know why GERD occurs. Some cases of acid reflux disease are related to a condition called "hiatal hernia." A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach is above the diaphragm. The diaphragm helps the lower esophageal sphincter keep digestive enzymes and acid from coming back into the esophagus.

Although no one knows why GERD occurs, there are several factors that are thought to contribute to the disorder. These factors include alcohol use, obesity or overweight, pregnancy, and smoking. Certain foods that may irritate the digestive system can also contribute to GERD, though there's plenty of contradictory evidence as to whether or not certain foods actually cause GERD symptoms. Foods that have been reported to cause GERD symptoms include citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, tea, soda (drinks with caffeine), fried or fatty foods, garlic, onions, mint flavoring, spicy food, and tomato-rich foods like pizza or pasta.

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