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Are the Symptoms of GERD and Gastritis the Same?

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/16/2010

GERD and gastritis are both diseases of the digestive system, but that is one of the few similarities they share. The symptoms of GERD and gastritis are actually very different, because these diseases have different causes, and develop in different areas of the digestive system

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    Gastritis Overview

    Gastritis is a stomach disorder that develops as a result of chronic stomach inflammation. This inflammation can have a number of different causes, including alcohol abuse, long-term use of prescription medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, injury, and surgery. Infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacterial species can also cause gastritis.

    Symptoms of gastritis can include the following:

    • Belching
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Abdominal bloating
    • Feeling of fullness or burning sensation in the upper abdominal region
    • Blood in vomit or stool

    The main treatment for gastritis is antacid medications to reduce the amount of stomach acid being produced, and to help promote healing of the inflammation in the stomach. If the gastritis was caused by infection, antibiotics are also prescribed.

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    GERD Overview

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a disease of the esophagus, the digestive system tube which transports food from the mouth to the stomach. Many people experience symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux occasionally, especially after eating a large or spicy meal. People who have two or more episodes of reflux a week are said to have GERD.

    The primary symptom of GERD is acid reflux, caused by regurgitation of stomach contents. Stomach contents typically contain stomach acid, so this regurgitation causes feelings of tightness and burning in the chest, which can become very painful.

    These symptoms develop because of a weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a ring of muscle which closes off esophageal access to the stomach. The LES relaxes when food or liquid must pass into the stomach, and tightens afterwards to prevent regurgitation.

    Known risk factors for GERD include smoking, and being over a healthy weight. People who have GERD often find that their symptoms are exacerbated by large meals, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine.

    Reducing the symptoms of GERD requires dietary and lifestyle modification, and possibly surgery to correc the LES weakness.

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    Comparison of Symptoms of GERD and Gastritis

    The main difference between gastritis and GERD is that gastritis develops in the stomach, while GERD develops in the esophagus. The difference in location is the primary reason why the symptoms of GERD and gastritis are dissimilar.

    In addition, the diseases have different causes. Gastritis is the result of stomach inflammation, which is often due to injury, infection, or medication use. The symptoms of gastritis are related to the irritation and inflammation that develops in the stomach.

    • The inflammation causes pain and nausea, and also prevents proper food digestion, causing a sensation of fullness even if only a little food is eaten.
    • Incomplete digestion helps to promote the build-up of excess gas, which in turn leads to excessive belching and abdominal bloating.
    • Serious stomach inflammation can cause stomach bleeding, which leads to blood in vomit or stools.

    In contrast, GERD develops due to weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter. This weakness is exacerbated by smoking and excess weight, and other influences such as diet and excessive alcohol use.

    • Acid reflux, the main symptom of GERD, is caused by improper closing of the LES.
    • Eating a large meal can prevent the LES from closing properly.
    • Spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, can have a similar effect.
    • When the LES does not close properly, stomach contents are regurgitated into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation and a feeling of tightness in the chest and throat.

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    References

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House: Gastritis

    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)

    National Institute of Health MedlinePlus: GERD

    The Mayo Clinic on Gastritis