Updated 07 July 2014

What is GORD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) is basically when you constantly get heartburn.

Quick summary

– Sometimes, acidic juices from the stomach flow back (“reflux”) into the gullet, or oesophagus.

– If this happens repeatedly, the acid will damage the lining of the gullet. This common condition is called Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD).

– Lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, losing weight and modifying your diet usually prevent reflux from occurring.

– The main symptom of reflux is a painful burning in the chest known as heartburn.

– If you have severe reflux, your doctor might recommend an investigative procedure called a gastroscopy to rule out more serious conditions. In rare cases, surgery is an option, otherwise medication to suppress stomach acid will be used initially.

What about smoking and GORD?

Alternative names

American spelling: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD.


Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux is a condition in which the lower oesophageal sphincter (the muscular ring at the lower end of the oesophagus, or gullet, near the diaphragm) is abnormally relaxed and allows the stomach's acidic contents to flow back or "reflux" into the oesophagus.

Usually, the sphincter prevents the stomach contents from flowing upward, working like a one-way valve.

Some degree of reflux is normal in everyone. Sometimes, the sphincter does not close tightly enough after food has passed through it. Then stomach acid, which is essential for digesting food, flows into the oesophagus. This is called “reflux”.

Read: Are there long-term complications of GORD?

The reflux tendency increases when the stomach contains a lot of gastric juice or food and when there is increased pressure in or on the stomach. Episodes of normal reflux typically occur after meals, are brief and without symptoms, and rarely occur during sleep.

If this happens often enough, the acid can damage the lining of the gullet. This condition is called Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease or GORD. GORD is a very common problem, occurring in people of all ages and both sexes.

Acid reflux becomes pathological (the condition called GORD) when the person develops symptoms or when the oesophagus becomes damaged.

Symptoms of GERD are an indication that potential injury to tissues has resulted from longer and more frequent acid exposure than that which occurs with normal, physiological reflux.

Read more:

What are the symptoms of GORD?
Can GORD be cured?
GORD – what can go wrong?

Previously reviewed by Dr Ganief Adams, Gastroenterologist, MBChB (UCT), FCP (SA)

Reviewed by Dr Jenny Edge, General Surgeon, BSc, MB BS, FRCS (Edin), M Med (Stell.)

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