A narrowed esophagus can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

This narrowing may be the reason why you’ve been burping a lot lately or experiencing an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

“Long term acid exposure at the bottom of the esophagus can cause scarring due to constant inflammation; this is called a stricture,” says Jay Desai, MD, who specializes in colon cancer screening, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology at the New York Gastroenterology Associates.

“However, this is much less common today because of the use of more effective antacid medication than in the past, such as omeprazole.”

Though long term acid reflux is a risk factor for causing the esophagus (“food pipe”) to narrow, there are other risk factors as well for stricture.

These include diverticulosis (pouches in the colon), pain drugs including aspirin, prior surgery to the esophagus, skin diseases and scleroderma.

Symptoms of a Narrowed Esophagus

Heartburn — burning or abrasive sensation in your chest and/or upper abdomen. It may also be more of an aching sensation without the burning feel.

Bad or bitter taste in the mouth, especially in the morning or middle of the night.

Burping for no apparent reason (e.g., drinking soda)


Pain or trouble swallowing. Keep in mind that many unrelated conditions can cause issues related to swallowing.

Unintentional weight loss, though this can have causes other than GERD such as untreated type 2 diabetes.

dr. desai

Board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Dr. Desai is available for same-day appointments and provides a wide range of GI services including for bacterial overgrowth, constipation, acid reflux and GERD, IBS, incontinence, small bowel disease. Twitter handle: @NYGADocs
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Chayatorn Laorattanavech
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