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GERD and Breath Tests


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that affects people of all ages and physical body types.  GERD is the clinical term for those who suffer heart burn more than twice a week.  Heart burn occurs due to the opening of the pyloric sphincter that is located between the stomach and the esophagus that allows stomach acid and other enzymes to move in between the two during digestion.  For those of us who suffer from GERD, the symptoms are unmistakable and are aptly named “heart burn”.  This condition is widespread in our society due to fatty diets, smoking, consumption of alcohol or carbonated beverages, and various hereditary traits.

According to Dr. A.W. Jones, a leading scientist in alcohol breath testing, GERD may have a substantial impact on the accuracy of evidentiary breath tests, like the one given in Texas DWI cases, depending on the time of drinking in relation to the time of the breath test.  Most people who suffer from GERD experience a painful sensation in the throat that is the result from the reflux of the stomach contents into the esophagus.  Naturally, if the stomach contents contain alcohol, it stands to reason that it is possible for some of the alcohol to escape through the mouth during a breath test and falsely increase the breath test result. GERD is a critical consideration in breath test DWI cases also when considering that beer, white wine, and mixed drinks with carbonated beverages or fruit juice mixes have been consumed.  These types of drinks not only contain alcohol, they also can intensify the occurrence of GERD in a person.

The critical question in this process is how long after drinking is the breath test provided? This is important because during the post absorption phase, most of the alcohol has already left the stomach and moved along to the other stages of elimination and digestion.  The closer in time between the breath test and consumption of alcohol, the greater the likelihood that GERD may produce a higher breath test reading than is accurate.  Some experts believe that GERD allows alcohol to stay in the stomach for as long as three hours after the last drink, any time longer than that and GERD defense likely wouldn’t apply.  However, most breath tests occur within two hours of the last drink, making GERD a very relevant question in any breath test case.  Anyone who has suffered a hiatal hernia may also have a defense similar to GERD.  A Hiatal Hernia is defined as an abnormal condition in which part of the stomach protrudes upward through the esophageal cleft in the diaphragm, sometimes causing a back flow of acid stomach contents into the esophagus.  Essentially, this type of hernia has the same impact as acid reflux disease.