Acid Reflux Terminology

Below is a list of common acid reflux terminology, with special attention given to terms related to infants and children.

Antacid
Any substance, generally a base or basic salt, which counteracts stomach acidity. In other words, antacids are stomach acid neutralizers.

Aspiration
Accidental sucking in of food particles or fluids into the lungs.

Barium
In medicine, refers to a chalky solution of barium used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an x-ray.

Barrett’s Esophagus
Refers to an abnormal change (metaplasia) in the cells of the lower end of the esophagus thought to be caused by damage from chronic acid exposure, or reflux esophagitis. Rare.

Bicarbonate
In medicine, bicarbonate usually refers to bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate, baking soda) white powder that is common ingredient in antacids.

Biopsy
The removal of a sample of tissue for purposes of diagnosis.

Buffer
Neutralizing solution used to protect medication from stomach acid degradation

Celiac Disease
Small intestine disorder caused by a reaction to the gluten protein (found in wheat, barley, rye, etc)

DGE
Delayed Gastric Emptying

Gastroparesis
A medical condition consisting of a paresis (partial paralysis) of the stomach, resulting in food remaining in the stomach for a longer period of time than normal. Normally, the stomach contracts to move food down into the small intestine for digestion. The vagus nerve controls these contractions. Gastroparesis may occur when the vagus nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally. Food then moves slowly or stops moving through the digestive tract.

Delayed Release
Any drug encapsulated by a protective enteric-coating, which delays its absorption into the bloodstream

Dyspepsia
Hard or difficult digestion. A condition characterized by chronic or recurrent pain in the upper abdomen, upper abdominal fullness and feeling full earlier than expected when eating

Enteric Coating
Protective coat that surrounds a drug to keep it from degrading in the acidic environment of the stomach; may surround an entire tablet or come in the form of tiny granules in a capsule or suspended in a liquid; must NOT be crushed or chewed in order for the drug to work

Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE)
An allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus. Symptoms are swallowing difficulty, food impaction, and heartburn. The disease was first described in children but occurs in adults as well. The condition is not well understood, but food allergy may play a significant role.

Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGID)
These disorders are characterized by having above normal amounts of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in one or more specific places anywhere in the digestive system. EGID is further subdivided into organ-specific diagnosis. For example, Eosinophilic Gastritis means eosinophils infiltrating the stomach. The suffix “-itis” means inflammation. While visual inflammation is not always present, inflammation may be apparent under the microscope.

Esophageal Motility Disorder
A medical disorder causing difficulty in swallowing, regurgitation of food and a spasm-type pain which can be brought on by an allergic reaction to certain foods.

Esophageal Stricture
A narrowing of the esophagus that causes swallowing difficulties. It can be caused by or associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophagitis(inflammation of the esophagus), dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter, disordered motility, or a hiatal hernia.

Esophagitis
Inflammation of the esophagus. The esophagus is that soft tube-like portion of the digestive tract connecting the pharynx with the stomach.

FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome)
A disease in infants/young kids caused by culprit foods (generally milk and/or soy products). Mimics food allergies but generally only GI symptoms (no skin rash, etc.)

Fundoplication (Nissen)
A surgical technique that strengthens the barrier to acid reflux when the lower esophageal sphincter does not work normally and there is gastro-esophageal reflux. Often has lifelong adverse effects and needs to be done over repeatedly.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Defined as chronic symptoms or mucosal damage produced by the abnormal reflux in the esophagus. This is commonly due to transient or permanent changes in the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. This can be due to incompetence of the lower esophageal sphincter, transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, impaired expulsion of gastric reflux from the esophagus, or a hiatus hernia.

Grunting Baby Syndrome
Pattern of elimination behavior seen in babies during the first few months of life. The baby with grunting baby syndrome will push, squeeze, grunt, change color and carry on only to produce a soft bowel movement. Generally results from primitive incoordination. A common trap for parents and even pediatricians is to stimulate the GBS baby with a thermometer or a cotton swab. When the anus is stimulated, babies exhibit what’s referred to as an “anal wink.” When this happens the bottom relaxes ever so briefly but just enough to allow rectal contents to be eliminated. But as the baby becomes accustomed to pooping with stimulation it comes to be that the baby can only poop when stimulated (thus the trap).

H2 (Receptor Antagonists)
A class of drugs used to block the action of histamine on parietal cells in the stomach, decreasing the production of acid by these cells. H2 antagonist are used in the treatment of dyspepsia, although they have largely been surpassed in popularity by the more effective proton pump inhibitors. In the United States, all four FDA-approved members of the group—cimetidine, ranitidine, famotidine, and nizatidine—are available over the counter in relatively low doses.

Hiatus Hernia or Hiatal Hernia
Protrusion (or herniation) of the upper part of the stomach into the thorax through a tear or weakness in the diaphragm. The symptoms include acid reflux, and pain, similar to heartburn, in the chest, and upper stomach. In most patients, hiatus hernias cause no symptoms.

Immediate Release
A drug that is released for absorption as it enters the stomach; this allows the drug to be absorbed into the body earlier than with delayed-release drugs. Currently Zegerid is the only immediate release medication for treating reflux.

Laryngomalacia
A very common condition of infancy, in which the soft, immature cartilage of the upper larynx collapses inward during inhalation, causing airway obstruction. It can also be seen in older patients, especially those with neuromuscular conditions resulting in weakness of the muscles of the throat.

MSPI (Milk and soy protein intolerance)
Inability to digest the proteins found in milk or soy milk or products.

Nissen Fundoplication
A surgical procedure to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatus hernia.

Prokinetics
Drugs whose primary effect is to augment the speed of intestinal transit, by increasing the frequency of contractions in the small intestine or making them stronger, but without disrupting their rhythm. They are mostly used to treat or prevent pathological gastroesophageal reflux, or to speed up absorption of certain other drugs.

Probiotics
Usually a powder or pill containing the healthy bacteria found in the human digestive system. Thought to aid in digestion and break down food, particularly if the person is missing those particular bacteria.ProteinsLarge molecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids in a specific order determined by the base sequence of nucleotides in the DNA coding for the protein.

PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor)
Acid reflux drugs whose main action is pronounced and long-lasting reduction of gastric acid production.

Omeprazole (brand names: Losec, Prilosec, Zegerid, ocid)

Lansoprazole (brand names: Prevacid, Zoton, Inhibitol)

Esomeprazole (brand names: Nexium)

Pantoprazole (brand names: Protonix, Somac, Pantoloc, Pantozol, Zurcal, Pan)

Rabeprazole (brand names: Rabecid, Aciphex, Pariet, Rabeloc)

Pyloric Stenosis
Condition that causes severe vomiting due to narrowing of the opening from the stomach to the intestines, or enlargement of the muscle surrounding the opening.