Regurgitation: What Is This, Causes & Treatments

The Backflow of Stomach Contents into the Throat or MouthRegurgitation refers to the involuntary backflow of stomach contents into the throat or mouth, often accompanied by a sour taste or sensation, but what are the causes?

While occasional regurgitation may be normal, frequent or persistent episodes can indicate underlying health issues that require attention.

Today, we’ll delve into the reasons behind regurgitation and explore treatment options.

Understanding Regurgitation

Regurgitation occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, fails to close properly. This allows stomach contents, including acid and partially digested food, to flow back into the esophagus and sometimes into the mouth. So what are the main causes of regurgitation?

Causes of Regurgitation

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is a chronic condition characterized by frequent regurgitation due to a weakened or dysfunctional LES. Factors such as obesity, hiatal hernia, and certain dietary habits can contribute to GERD.
  • Hiatal Hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, disrupting the function of the LES and increasing the risk of regurgitation.
  • Pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can relax the LES, leading to regurgitation. Additionally, the growing uterus can exert pressure on the stomach, further exacerbating the problem.
  • Delayed Gastric Emptying (Gastroparesis). Gastroparesis is a condition characterized by delayed emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine. This can result in regurgitation of undigested food hours after eating.

Symptoms of Regurgitation

  • Sour Taste or Burning Sensation. Regurgitated stomach acid can cause a sour taste or burning sensation in the throat or mouth, often referred to as heartburn.
  • Belching. Excessive belching, particularly after meals or when lying down, may accompany regurgitation.
  • Hoarseness or Sore Throat. Chronic regurgitation can irritate the throat, leading to hoarseness, a sore throat, or recurrent coughing.
  • Dental Issues. Prolonged exposure to stomach acid can erode tooth enamel and contribute to dental problems such as cavities or tooth sensitivity.

Treatment Options

  • Lifestyle Modifications. Making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding trigger foods (e.g., spicy or acidic foods), eating smaller meals, and maintaining a healthy weight, can help alleviate regurgitation symptoms.
  • Medications. Over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2-receptor antagonists may be prescribed to reduce stomach acid production and alleviate regurgitation.
  • Surgical Intervention. In cases where lifestyle modifications and medications are ineffective, surgical procedures such as fundoplication or LINX device implantation may be recommended to strengthen the LES and prevent regurgitation.
  • Management of Underlying Conditions. Treating underlying conditions such as GERD, hiatal hernia, or gastroparesis is essential for managing regurgitation effectively.

Regurgitation is the backflow of stomach contents into the throat or mouth and can be caused by various underlying conditions. Understanding the reasons behind regurgitation and exploring appropriate treatment options is essential for managing symptoms and improving quality of life. If you experience frequent or severe regurgitation, consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and personalized treatment recommendations.

Picture Credit: Freepik

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