What is reflux? Differences between the digestive and the heart

Reflux is an involuntary movement that happens when the content that is present in the stomach returns to the esophagus .

Basically, it is a sign that the body’s natural process is not going well, which can cause several symptoms and complications.

The condition – quite common, even in children – is called gastroesophageal reflux.

The foods we chew pass through the pharynx and the esophagus (a kind of tube that we have in the chest and that reaches the stomach).

Between the esophagus and the stomach there is a valve connecting the two parts. It opens up for food to pass and quickly closes to prevent the contents from returning.

Then, from the moment that this valve does not close, the food content in the stomach returns to the throat or esophagus.

As the bolus is being digested by stomach acid, the substance also begins to attack the mucous membranes, which are prepared to deal with gastric juice.

Therefore, burning, chest pain, dry cough and even lung diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma can occur .

What is the difference between reflux and regurgitation?

Despite being associated conditions, there is a difference between reflux and regurgitation.

The first is when the sphincter (valve that connects the esophagus and stomach) opens incorrectly, allowing the passage of stomach contents. Regurgitation starts in the same way, but the content reaches the pharynx or the mouth.

How is gastroesophageal reflux?

Gastroesophageal reflux is the most common of all and does not necessarily represent a problem or change in the organism. But, depending on how often it happens, it should be treated with care.

That’s because stomach acids rise into the esophagus and cause damage to the inner wall of the throat. So, if they are frequent, they can cause damage to the body’s structure, causing burning and malaise.

The main reason is related to a localized sphincter failure, a valve that allows or blocks the passage of contents (such as food) from the esophagus to the stomach.

There are still other factors that may be associated, such as an increase in gastric secretion, increased pressure in the abdomen region and also the ingestion of large amounts of food.

Read more: What types of tea are indicated for reflux?

As for the diagnosis, gastric reflux can be classified between physiological or pathological types, in addition to being observable or not (visible or hidden). Understand:

Hidden or visible reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux can be divided into visible or hidden.

If, for example, there is a secretion of what was in the stomach through the nasal or oral routes (regurgitation or vomiting) the reflux is considered visible .

But if there is no type of regurgitation, and the return of gastric juice happens only up to the esophagus, then it is called hidden reflux .

Physiological reflux

The physiological type is the most common cause of reflux in people, however, as the name suggests, it is considered normal.

It happens without having any relation to more serious problems, simply due to the relaxation of the sphincter, that is, the transient part of the esophagus.

It can also be due to very heavy meals, a full stomach or improper positions after eating (such as lying down or lying face down).

It is a very common condition in babies, affecting about 50% of them, mainly before 6 months of age.

But, in general, it does not bring problems to the patient’s life.

Pathological reflux

The pathological type is when gastric reflux occurs frequently and does not cease between 4 and 6 months.

Patients need follow-up and treatment as soon as constant contact of the mucous membranes with stomach acid can be quite harmful.

What are the other types of reflux?

In addition to gastroesophageal, there are other types of reflux. Understand each one of them:

Laryngeal pharyngeal reflux

Laryngeal pharyngeal reflux is a return of stomach contents that reaches the pharynx and larynx (upper part of the throat, close to the mouth).

In such cases, there may be hoarseness, coughing, and throat discomfort due to proximity to the vocal cords and airways.

The main way to detect that you have this problem, is through exams such as nasofibroscopy, in which it is possible to observe the structure internally.

Bile reflux

Despite being similar with the normal type, bile reflux, as the name says, consists of the return of bile (substance that participates in digestion) to the stomach and esophagus.

This type of reflux is also known as duodenogastric reflux and can be due to a very fatty meal or mechanical problems (for example, after surgery on the digestive tract).

Although the bile is not acidic, the return of the substance may contain gastric juice together, which causes damage to the mucous membranes of the throat.

In general, the treatment is drug-based and requires medical follow-up.

Heart reflux (mitral or blood)

The name “reflux” does not only occur in the digestive system, but also in the heart.

In this case, it is one of the conditions or mechanisms that occurs in cardiac alterations or pathologies. That is, it is not the disease itself.

For example, in mitral regurgitation, which is a common heart disease and affects the valves of the heart.

In this case, a valve called the mitral valve (responsible for the passage of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle) does not close completely, causing the blood to go to the lungs instead of leaving the heart to irrigate the body.

Among the most common symptoms are shortness of breath, swelling in the feet, coughing, a racing heart and tiredness .

In general, the treatment consists of the use of diuretic drugs, beta-blockers or inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme.

However, if it is considered more serious, the health professional can indicate the performance of Valvuloplasty, a surgical operation necessary for the correction or replacement of the mitral valve.

What is emotional reflux?

Emotional reflux is related to psychological, and usually occurs when the patient goes through situations stress . This is because there is a strong relationship between the functioning of the stomach and psychological disorders, anxiety , depression or other conditions.


Regardless of the type of reflux, be it digestive or in the heart, all can potentially be avoided with a frequency of visits to the doctor and with a change in lifestyle.

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