Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

GORD can affect children and adults but can be treated with lifestyle changes.

GORD can affect children and adults but can be treated with lifestyle changes.
beginning of content

What causes GORD (reflux)?

2-minute read

Most cases of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) are caused by a problem with the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). The LOS is the muscle around at the bottom of the oesophagus (food pipe).

The LOS acts like a valve. It opens to let food and fluids fall into the stomach, and closes to prevent acid leaking out of the stomach and back up into the oesophagus. The LOS can become weakened and may not close properly. This allows acid to leak up into the oesophagus causing symptoms such as heartburn.

It’s not always clear why the LOS becomes weakened, but it’s more likely to happen in people:

  • who are overweight or obese
  • who consume lots of fatty foods, because the stomach takes longer to dispose of stomach acids after digesting a fatty meal
  • who consume substances which may relax the LOS such as tobacco, alcohol, coffee or chocolate
  • who are pregnant, due to changes in hormone levels which can relax the LOS, as well as the increased pressure on the stomach during pregnancy
  • who have connective tissue disorders
  • with a hiatus hernia, where part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm (the sheet of muscle which separates the abdomen from the chest)
  • with a condition called gastroparesis (fairly common in people with diabetes) where the stomach takes longer to dispose of stomach acid
  • who are feeling stressed
  • who smoke
  • who take certain medicines, such as aspirin


NHS Inform (Heartburn and gastro-oesophgeal reflux disease (GORD)), Mayo Clinic (Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD))

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms -

Heartburn is the most noticeable of several symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Read more on myDr website

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease -

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is when you have frequent or severe reflux symptoms, such as regular heartburn. If you have complications of reflux, you are also considered to have GORD.

Read more on myDr website

Asthma and gastric reflux -

Recent medical research has been trying to unravel the link between asthma and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD, or GERD).

Read more on myDr website

Heartburn -

Heartburn is a common form of indigestion caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux - reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus (gullet).

Read more on myDr website

Oesophageal cancer: what is it? -

Find out about oesophageal cancer, including risk factors, causes and symptoms of this disease.

Read more on myDr website

Bad breath (halitosis) -

Most bad breath (halitosis) originates in the mouth and is caused by the breakdown of food by bacteria. Bad breath is especially common first thing.

Read more on myDr website

Fibromyalgia -

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic (ongoing) problems with generalised pain, tenderness and muscle stiffness, plus increased response to touch.

Read more on myDr website

Heartburn treatments -

Treatment for heartburn will depend on how often your heartburn occurs and how much it impacts on your life. Treatments include antacids, medicines or surgery, as well as self-help measures.

Read more on myDr website

My Baby Has Reflux | Red Nose

Read more on Red Nose website

Reflux: Sleeping Position for Babies with Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux (GOR) | Red Nose

Read more on Red Nose website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo