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Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop GERD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GERD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.
GERD or heartburn can occur in men, women, and children of all ages, including infants.
Risk factors include:
The following habits may increase the risk of GERD:
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Exercising or strenuous activity immediately after eating
  • Lying down, bending over, or straining after eating
The following foods and beverages may increase the risk of developing GERD:
  • Alcohol use, especially in excess
  • Caffeinated products
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Foods made with tomatoes, such as pizza, chili, or spaghetti sauce
  • Spicy foods
The following medical conditions may increase the risk of developing GERD:

  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Prior surgery, vagotomy
  • Scleroderma
  • Certain nervous system disorders
  • In-dwelling nasogastric tube
The use of certain medications and supplements may increase the risk of GERD. These medications include:
  • Anticholinergics
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Theophylline, bronchial inhalers, and other asthma medications
  • Nitrates
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Bisphosphonates

References

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 29, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal%5Fdisorders/esophageal%5Fand%5Fswallowing%5Fdisorders/gastroesophageal%5Freflux%5Fdisease%5Fgerd.html. Updated May 2012. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Katz PO, Gerson LB, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.

Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Published April 25, 2010. Accessed April 30, 2010.

9/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Jacobson BC, Moy B, et al. Postmenopausal hormone use and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168:1798-1804.

4/25/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Shimamoto T, Yamamichi N. No association of coffee consumption with gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, reflux esophagitis, and non-erosive reflux disease: a cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japan. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e65996.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/08/2014 -