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Is GERD Hereditary?

If you’re suffering from symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, you may also be wondering what caused your ailment. Specifically, you may be wondering if the condition is hereditary. The truth is, there are numerous possible causes of GERD, and genetics may be one of the causes. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into the causes of GERD and how genetics might play a part. Read on to learn more!

What is GERD?

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back toward the esophagus, causing numerous uncomfortable symptoms. 

These symptoms of GERD often include:

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A burning sensation in the chest
  • A sour or bitter taste in your mouth
  • The feeling of a lump in your throat
  • Chronic coughing, especially when lying down
  • Sleep issues
  • Backwash of sour liquid or regurgitated food

GERD is usually caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter, which is a muscle that helps to prevent stomach acid from flowing back from the stomach to the esophagus. GERD can have an impact on your quality of life, leading to discomfort and possibly other complications down the line. It’s important to seek help from a medical professional to build out a treatment plan if you’re experiencing symptoms. They will be able to help you effectively manage your condition and alleviate the symptoms.

Understanding chronic heartburn and acid reflux

While heartburn and acid reflux are problems that many people have on occasion, it usually goes away within hours or a day. If you have chronic heartburn and acid reflux, it may mean you have gastroesophageal reflux disease. Chronic heartburn and acid reflux often go hand in hand for people with GERD, and understanding these two symptoms can help you better understand your condition.

Acid reflux refers to the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Heartburn and acid reflux are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but they refer to two different things. While acid reflux describes the actual backflow of the acid, heartburn refers to the burning sensation that you feel when you have acid reflux. Typically, heartburn is brought on by certain foods, beverages or habits like smoking and alcohol. As mentioned, heartburn every once in a while is normal, but frequent or persistent heartburn could indicate a condition like GERD.

If you have occasional heartburn or acid reflux, they can typically be managed with over-the-counter medication. However, OTC meds are typically not enough for those who suffer from chronic heartburn or acid reflux due to GERD. Ongoing treatment and symptom management, as advised by your health care provider, will be better for long-term relief.

Is it genetic?

So, now we understand what GERD is and the common symptoms associated with it, but what causes the condition in the first place? There is strong evidence to suggest that genetics could play a role in someone having GERD and that it could be hereditary. According to Medical News Today, studies have revealed that the heritability of GERD could be around 31%. 

While the studies suggest that the genetic component of GERD is strong, there are often various other factors at play that can cause or worsen symptoms. We’ll dive deeper into the factors that may contribute to GERD symptoms in the next section.

Factors that may contribute to GERD symptoms

Your genetics may indeed be playing a role in your GERD, but what other factors may cause you to develop or exacerbate your symptoms? The other primary causes or triggers of GERD may include:

  • Obesity — Obesity can be a significant contributor to GERD symptoms. Excess weight can put pressure on the abdomen and cause stomach acid to be pushed up into the esophagus. This consistent pressure can lead to a weakened or relaxed lower esophageal sphincter and exacerbate the symptoms of acid reflux. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce and manage GERD symptoms.
  • Diet — Diet can also play a role in GERD symptoms. Certain foods and beverages can trigger acid reflux, especially spicy foods, fatty foods, foods high in acid, chocolate and alcohol. Identifying your trigger foods can help you to avoid or reduce acid reflux symptoms. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can also help to improve your symptoms over time.
  • Lifestyle habits — Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to GERD symptoms. Smoking can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter and irritate the lining of your esophagus. Alcohol can relax your LES and increase your stomach acid levels. Quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake can help to improve your symptoms.
  • Eating large meals before bed — Eating large meals before bed can also exacerbate symptoms. Lying down while your digestive system is hard at work makes it easier for stomach acid to splash back up to the esophagus, causing acid reflux. If you frequently experience acid reflux during the night, regardless of your eating habits, it’s a good idea to elevate the head of your bed to reduce the likelihood of acid reflux.
  • Pregnancy — Pregnancy can also contribute to GERD symptoms. The increased hormone levels during pregnancy may affect digestive function, and a baby growing in the womb can increase pressure on the abdomen.
  • Certain medications — Certain medications, such as aspirin, may worsen the symptoms of GERD. If you’re asking your doctor about GERD, make sure to let them know what medications you’re taking to see if they may be contributing to your symptoms.
  • Certain conditions — Certain conditions like hiatal hernias and connective tissue disorders may increase your risk of developing GERD.

Overall, it’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care provider if you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD. They’ll be able to talk to you and ask questions about your lifestyle to narrow down the possible causes and factors that are worsening your symptoms.

Connect with a doctor or online provider

If you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD, make an appointment with your primary care provider to diagnose your condition. Once you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, your provider will be able to develop a treatment plan for you that focuses on alleviating your symptoms, identifying triggers and implementing changes that will help manage your condition over time.

Circle Medical is a great place to go if you need a primary care provider. You can connect with our in-person providers or talk to an online provider for a more convenient option. Circle Medical makes it easy to receive health care your way.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

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