Oh My GERD!

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.

Risk Factors

Several factors can contribute to your risk of GERD. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Overeating
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods
  • Consuming caffeine
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Using aspirin and over-the-counter pain medications (NSAIDs)
  • Having a hiatal hernia
  • A weakened LES
  • Pregnancy
  • Age

Living with GERD

Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your symptoms. However, there are additional steps you can take to decrease the amount of discomfort you experience from GERD.

  • Avoid foods that exacerbate your symptoms (fatty or spicy foods, acidic foods, etc.).
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Get to a healthy weight; your doctor can help you develop a weight-loss plan.
  • Raise the head of your bed or prop up your head with pillows.

Treatment

If your heartburn symptoms do not improve with these lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend medications to manage your condition. Because GERD can lead to other health issues, your doctor may recommend surgery if you have a very severe case.

If you suffer from frequent heartburn, schedule a consultation with a doctor at St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital’s Heartburn & Acid Reflux Institute to find a solution for you. We now offer the innovative LINX surgical solution in addition to traditional GERD care.

Sources:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

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