Do you suffer from frequent heartburn? You may be dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder. Also known as acid reflux, GERD occurs when acid from your stomach flows back up into the esophagus, causing discomfort.
How GERD Works
Normally, a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens and closes to allow food into the stomach and keep digestive acids down. The LES also opens when the body needs to vomit or belch. However, in someone with GERD, the LES is weakened and unable to keep stomach acids down properly.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. This usually involves a burning pain that begins behind the breastbone and moves up the neck and throat. This sensation can last as long as two hours and often occurs after you eat. Lying down or bending over can also contribute to heartburn. Other symptoms include regurgitation, trouble swallowing, and a sour taste in the mouth or throat.
Symptoms of GERD can look like other health problems, and each person’s symptoms can vary. Consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Several factors can contribute to your risk of GERD. These include:
- Being overweight
- Eating certain foods, such as citrus, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods
- Consuming caffeine
- Drinking alcohol
- Using aspirin and over-the-counter pain medications (NSAIDs)
- Having a hiatal hernia
- A weakened LES