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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Glossary of Heartburn Terms


LES: Abbreviation for lower esophageal sphincter.

Nausea: A queasy feeling that leads to stomach distress, a distaste for food, and an urge to vomit. Nausea is not a disease, but a symptom of many conditions. It can be brought on by illnesses such as influenza, medications, pain, and inner ear disease.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): A class of drugs that is effective in reducing inflammation and pain without steroids. Examples of these drugs include aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.

Manometry test: See esophageal manometry test

Minimally invasive surgery: See laparoscopic surgery

Pancreas: The organ behind the stomach that is about the size of a hand. The pancreas secretes enzymes into the small intestine to break down protein, fat, and carbohydrates from the food we eat. The pancreas also produces several hormones, including insulin.

Paraesophageal hernia: A type of hiatal hernia in which part of the stomach is pushed or squeezed upward through the diaphragm, moving it next to the lower esophagus. Although you can have this type without any symptoms, there is danger that the stomach could become "strangled," cutting off its blood supply.

Pathology: The study of the characteristics, causes, and effects of a disease.

Peristalsis: A series of involuntary muscular contractions that form a wave-like motion to propel food through the esophagus to the stomach. This same process is used by the intestines to propel digested food and waste.

Promotility agents: Prescription drugs used in the treatment of severe heartburn or GERD. These medications help speed gastric emptying, reducing the amount of time that stomach contents stay in the stomach. They may also help strengthen the LES and thereby decrease the amount of stomach acid that can potentially reflux into the esophagus.

Proton pump inhibitors: The most powerful type of acid suppressors. These medications work by preventing acid pumps in the stomach from producing too much acid.

Reflux: To flow back or return.

Regurgitation: To expel the contents of the stomach in small amounts, short of vomiting.

Risk factor: A characteristic or event that predisposes a person to a certain condition.

Sliding hernia: The most common type of hiatal hernia that occurs when the lower esophagus and the upper stomach slide into the chest cavity through an opening, or hiatus, in the diaphragm. Heartburn and acid reflux may be caused by a sliding hernia.

Small intestine: The portion of the intestinal tract that first receives food from the stomach. It is divided into three sections: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. As food travels through the small intestine it is further broken down by enzymes, and nutrients from the food are absorbed into the bloodstream.

Sphincter: See lower esophageal sphincter.

Stomach: A sac-like organ with muscular walls that holds, mixes, and grinds food. The stomach secretes acid and enzymes that continue the process of breaking down the food.

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