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Acid Reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GER) occurs when the stomach contents reflux or back up into the esophagus during or following a meal. At the bottom of the esophagus there is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which opens and closes allowing food to enter the stomach. Typically, the LES opens after meals to release gases. Sometimes when the LES opens the stomach contents, including digestive juices or acids, reflux back up into the esophagus. This can lead to a burning sensation or in the case of babies and infants, spitting up or vomiting.
More than 20 million Americans have a form of acid reflux and it is common in healthy infants within the first three months of life. Managing reflux for adults means the avoidance of fatty, spicy or acidic foods. Infants usually stop spitting up between 12 and 24 months of age.
Without proper regulation and treatment, acid reflux can develop into advanced or severe acid reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which can lay the foundation of risk for developing a complication known as Barrett’s Esophagus. Barrett’s occurs when the tissue of the esophagus is replaced by tissue similar to that which line the intestines. The presence of Barrett’s can indicate new risk for esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.