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What’s the Difference Between GERD and Gastritis?

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 4/5/2011

GERD and gastritis are sometimes confused, but they are actually two entirely different disorders with different causes and symptoms.

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    The main difference between GERD and gastritis is that GERD is a disease of the esophagus, while gastritis is a stomach disorder. GERD and gastritis originate in different places in the gastrointestinal tract, and have different causes and symptoms.

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    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

    Gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition that many people experience on occasion. A large meal, or eating certain types of trigger foods, can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open spontaneously, or not close properly. The LES is a ring of muscle that acts like a valve to prevent the release of stomach contents into the esophagus. During an episode of GER, stomach contents can rise up the esophagus and may be tasted in the mouth. Since stomach contents typically contain acid, a burning sensation (commonly referred to as heartburn) is felt in the chest.

    While gastroesophageal reflux is common and not a cause for alarm, GERD can be a sign of more significant problems. GERD is gastroesophageal reflux disease, defined as two or more episodes of gastroesophageal reflux per week. In GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter becomes more relaxed, meaning that it is open more often than is normal. This leads to more frequent episodes of GER.

    The exact cause of the disease is unclear, but it is known that obesity and smoking are risk factors. Certain foods can trigger attacks of GER, or worsen the symptoms. These may include citrus, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, onions, garlic, tomato, and spicy foods. Untreated GERD can, over time, lead to chronic inflammation of the esophagus, and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

    If you are overweight or smoke and have GERD, then losing weight or ceasing smoking may help alleviate symptoms. Eliminating trigger foods from the diet, and eating smaller, more frequent meals, can also be helpful.

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    Gastritis

    Several different conditions and risk factors can contribute to the development of gastritis, an acute or chronic inflammation of the stomach lining. Alcohol abuse and long-term use of aspirin, ibuprofen, any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause gastritis. Major surgery or traumatic injury such as burns can also cause gastritis. Infection with Helicobacter pylori is also a known cause of the condition.

    Common symptoms of gastritis include stomach pain or upset, as well as vomiting, nausea, abdominal bloating, belching, and a feeling of burning or fullness in the upper abdomen. Blood in stool or vomit can indicate advanced gastritis or other problems, and medical advice should be sought immediately.

    Gastritis is commonly treated with antacid medication to reduce stomach acid and help promote healing. Avoiding trigger foods can also help increase the rate of healing. When gastritis is caused by an H. pylori infection, antibiotics to eliminate the infection can completely cure the condition.

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    References

    Gastritis information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House.

    Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House.

    National Institute of Health MedlinePlus: GERD

    The Mayo Clinic on Gastritis