Gastrocolic Reflex

Gastrocolic Reflex (GR) is a condition where one experiences pain after eating or drinking something acidic. GR can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. There are various theories about how it develops. Some say that there could be genetic factors involved while others believe that it may have to do with stress hormones like adrenaline or cortisol.

The symptoms of GR vary from person to person. They might experience them immediately after eating or drink something acidic. Other times they take time before experiencing any symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms don’t occur at all.

But if they do occur, then it’s usually worse than the first time someone eats something acidic or drinks something acidic.

Symptoms of GR:

Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Causes of Gastrocolic Reflex:

There are many theories about why GR occurs. One theory suggests that acidity triggers the release of chemicals called gastric inhibitory peptides (GIP). These GIPs prevent your body from making too much acid in the stomach. When this happens, it results in stomach cramping and other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Another theory is that your stomach makes too much acid as a result of eating a very acidic food or drink. This happens because the stomach tries to protect itself from the acid by activating sensors that tell the brain that something is wrong. The brain then responds by releasing chemicals that make you feel sick.

Two other theories also exist, one states that eating or drinking affects how quickly and efficiently your stomach empties its contents into your small intestine. This causes food and acid to stay in your stomach longer than they normally should, which can cause irritation. This irritation can trigger a reflex in your intestines, which causes nausea and vomiting as the only way for your body to protect itself from this irritation.

The other theory states that food allergies or sensitivities can also be a contributing factor.

Sources & references used in this article:

Experimental and clinical aspects of gastrocolic reflexes by MF Tansy, FM Kendall – The American journal of digestive diseases, 1973 – Springer

Physiology, Gastrocolic Reflex (Gastrocolic Response) by JC Malone, A Thavamani – StatPearls [Internet], 2019 –

The symptomatic, exaggerated gastrocolic reflex: its relief by an oral, topical anesthetic (oxethazaine hydrochloride). by OM Jankelson, IR Jankelson – American Journal of …, 1959 –

Isolated failure of noradrenergic transmission in a case with orthostatic hypotension and hyperactivity of gastro-colic reflex by P Cortelli, P Parchi, M Contin, E Sforza… – Clinical Autonomic …, 1992 – Springer

The gastro-ileac reflex: further experimental observations by DM Douglas, FC Mann – The American Journal of Digestive Diseases, 1940 – Springer

Abnormal duodenal loop in patients with sliding esophageal hiatal hernia—studies on intragastric pressure and gastrocolic reflex by P Thommesen – RöFo-Fortschritte auf dem Gebiet der …, 1974 –

Treatment of constipation in older adults by C Hsieh – American family physician, 2005 –

The gastrocolic response: is it GIP? by LF Sillin, RE Condon, WJ Schulte, P Bass… – Journal of Surgical …, 1980 – Elsevier

Fabry disease: impaired autonomic function by WJL Cable, EH Kolodny, RD Adams – Neurology, 1982 – AAN Enterprises