The cardia is the entrance to the stomach at the bottom of the esophagus. It is one of four main parts of the stomach, including the pylorus, body, and fundus. Food and liquids initially pass through the cardia before entering the stomach.

Another name for this part of the stomach is gastric cardia. Within the cardia of the stomach resides the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter is important in the digestion process.

Various conditions can affect the cardia of the stomach, including infection, cancer, and reflux.

Read on to learn more about the cardia of the stomach, including its location and function, as well as how certain conditions can affect it.

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The cardia of the stomach is not a specific organ but a descriptive term for a location in the stomach. It is the first portion of the stomach, connecting the esophagus to the stomach.

The cardioesophageal sphincter, or gastroesophageal sphincter, is contained within the cardia of the stomach. This sphincter acts like a door to the stomach, opening only in one direction so that food can flow into the stomach and not back up the esophagus.

The main role of the cardia of the stomach is to house the gastroesophageal sphincter.

This sphincter allows food to enter the stomach and move in the right direction. When food frequently flows back up the esophagus, a person may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and experience frequent heartburn.

As with other portions of the stomach, the gastric cardia secretes mucus. This mucus protects the lining of the stomach from stomach acid.

The stomach is a complex organ that mechanically digests food with its movements and chemically digests food using gastric acid. The organ is part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Cells that secrete mucus cover most of the stomach. This prevents gastric acid from damaging the stomach.

The other main regions of the stomach include:

  • Fundus: This is the top, rounded portion of the stomach. It is rich in parietal cells, which secrete substances vital for digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Body: This is the main part of the stomach. It helps temporarily store food and drains into the pylorus.
  • Pylorus: This is a valve that opens to allow food to drain into the duodenum of the small intestine.

Food travels from the stomach into the small intestine. There, the body absorbs significant nutrients and water as well as begins the process of clearing waste from the body.

Learn more about the stomach.

Several conditions can affect the cardia of the stomach. They include:

Helicobacter pylori infection

Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, affects up to half of the worldwide population. When this bacteria infects the cardia of the stomach, it can cause inflammation. Over time, this increases the risk of other diseases.

Emerging research suggests that H. pylori may increase the risk of adenocarcinoma, a type of stomach cancer.

H. pylori is also the most common cause of peptic ulcers. These are open sores on the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Peptic ulcers can cause symptoms of pain, vomiting, and bloating in some people.

Learn more about peptic ulcers.

GERD

When the gastroesophageal sphincter within the stomach’s cardia relaxes at the wrong time, food can flow back up, causing a burning sensation. This action can also cause injury to the esophagus. These events can indicate that a person has gastroesophageal reflux disease.

GERD is a chronic condition and may require long-term management.

Learn more about GERD.

Cancer

Cancer cells can grow in the cardia, creating masses and tumors.

A large 2020 population study in China found a high correlation between H. pylori and cancerous and precancerous cardiac lesions. This suggests that H. pylori infection in the cardia may be a risk factor for stomach cancer.

Learn more about stomach cancer.

Polyps

Polyps are usually benign growths that can form in the stomach, including the cardia. However, very rarely, the polyps may grow in a location that affects function.

A 2017 case report discusses a 67-year-old who had a cardiac polyp blocking the esophagus. This is the first such case report published in the literature and, therefore, a very rare complication.

Learn more about stomach polyps.

The cardia of the stomach, or gastric cardia, is one of the four main parts of the stomach. It is the first place food and nutrients pass through. It also houses the gastroesophageal sphincter, which prevents food from flowing in the wrong direction in the stomach.

Cancer, inflammation, and other conditions can develop in the cardia. Bacterial infection with H. pylori is an important risk factor for some serious diagnoses. People who frequently experience stomach pain, frequent indigestion, reflux, or other symptoms should consult a healthcare professional.