WHY AM I REGURGITATING?
Regurgitation is the expulsion of material from the pharynx, or esophagus, usually characterized by the presence of undigested food or blood. Regurgitation happens when a mixture of gastric juices, and sometimes undigested food, rises back up the esophagus and into the mouth. In humans it can be voluntary or involuntary, the latter being due to a small number of disorders.
In adults, involuntary regurgitation is a common symptom of acid reflux and gastro-esophageal reflux disease GERD. It may also be a symptom of a rare condition called rumination disorder. Regurgitation of a person’s meals following ingestion is known as rumination syndrome, an uncommon and often misdiagnosed motility disorder that affects eating.
Acid reflux: Acid reflux is a condition that’s characterized by reflux, heartburn, and bad breath. Common triggers include; eating large meals, eating certain foods (varies from person to person) and lying down soon after eating
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD): When acid reflux happens multiple times per week, it’s known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Both acid reflux and GERD commonly cause regurgitation of stomach acid or food.
Rumination syndrome: Rumination syndrome is a rare condition that causes frequent regurgitation of undigested food. This regurgitation happens frequently right after eating a meal. Rumination syndrome is rare, so unless there’s constant regurgitation, the regurgitation is more likely due to acid reflux or GERD.
Other common causes of regurgitation include:
- Certain medications
- Eating disorders
Some medications can also irritate the lining of the esophagus, which can cause regurgitation of bile. Smoking can exacerbate conditions like acid reflux and lead to increased reflux and regurgitation. Bulimia may also cause regurgitation. Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing and purging food.
Symptoms of regurgitation vary based on the underlying cause. Many of the symptoms that accompany regurgitation are due to the conditions that cause regurgitation, such as acid reflux and GERD.
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include:
- Heartburn or chest pain
- Bitter or sour taste at the back of the throat
- Regurgitation of stomach acid or undigested food
When regurgitation happens frequently on its own without the other symptoms of acid reflux or GERD, it may be rumination syndrome.
Symptoms of rumination syndrome include:
- Frequent regurgitation soon after eating
- Fullness in the belly
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
Medication is a popular first-line treatment option for people with acid reflux and GERD. There are a handful of medications that can treat these conditions, including:
- Antacids that can relieve mild GERD symptoms
- H2 blockers, such as Pepcid, which can reduce stomach acid production
- PPIs, such as Prilosec, which can reduce stomach acid production long term
Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe prokinetics and antibiotics to increase stomach emptying and reduce the risk of regurgitation.
Here are some lifestyle changes that can the help reduce the occurrence of regurgitation
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Stop smoking.
- During mealtime, eat smaller meals, chew your food thoroughly, and don’t lie down after eating for at least 2 to 3 hours.