What is meant by 'reflux, regurgitation and heartburn'?

What is meant by 'reflux, regurgitation and heartburn'?

Reflux is the medical term for what happens when some of the stomach contents come back out of the stomach and up the oesophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach).

Reflux is very common, and affects people of all ages. It tends to happen more often after meals, and the symptoms can sometimes be uncomfortable.

The stomach contains acid, which helps to digest food. When reflux happens, a small amount of the acidic stomach contents can come back up towards the throat. This can irritate the lining of the oesophagus, causing discomfort or pain.

If reflux causes discomfort or pain on a regular basis, or if it causes other problems, for example, poor growth in babies, healthcare professionals call it acid reflux, gastro‑oesophageal reflux disease, or GORD for short.

Please also see the section sources of advice and support.

Babies

Reflux is normal in babies, and affects nearly half of all babies to some extent. It is often called 'posseting' or 'regurgitation' because you can usually see the milk coming back up after the baby's feed. The medical name for this is reflux. Babies may regurgitate a small amount of their feed, or they might be sick, vomiting some or all of their feed.

Babies with reflux may cry and be hard to comfort, they may arch their backs, they may fuss over feeds or refuse feeds, or they may regurgitate feeds effortlessly.

Children and young people

Children and young people can also have reflux, and they may say it feels like 'a bit of sick' has come up to their throat.

They may feel heartburn – a burning sensation because of the acid that has come up the oesophagus from the stomach. They may feel pain or discomfort in the chest behind the breastbone, and the feeling might move up towards the throat. Other symptoms include an unpleasant taste in the mouth and regurgitation or vomiting.

  • Information Standard