GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
What is it? GERD happens when stomach acid or sometimes stomach contents wind up flowing into your esophagus (your food pipe) and/or mouth causing a burning sensation. It is commonly called acid reflux, but in extreme cases can be diagnosed as GERD.
Why does it happen? When you eat, your esophagus helps to push food down into your stomach. There is a band of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that helps with this process. However, if the muscle is relaxed and the esophagus does not close, that is when you get the acid reflux or GERD.
Symptoms? Heartburn or burning in the chest and/or throat, chest pain, trouble swallowing, dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat, sensation of having a lump in your throat, regurgitation of food or sour taste in your mouth. If you have chest pain, jaw pain, arm numbness/pain, get to the ER – this is NOT GERD but could be signs of a heart attack.
Causes? Food and drinks can cause GERD: Chocolate, alcohol, spicy foods, some fatty foods, peppermint, and coffee.
Should I see a doctor? If this occurs more than twice a week and it forces you to take an antacid or a type of pill known as a PPI (proton pump inhibitor – like Prevacid or Prilosec) or an H2 blocker (like Ranitidine or Zantac), then you should be seeing your physician. Also, if you get pain in the chest, arm, or jaw pain, then get yourself to the ER as soon as you can because this could be signs of a heart attack.
Who is at risk for GERD? The following is a list of people who should pay attention to these signs and symptoms and should get medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Obese people
- Bulging top of stomach (hiatal hernia)
- Dry mouth
Treatment for GERD? Most doctors will recommend a lifestyle and diet change to help reduce the frequency of GERD. Also Foods and beverages that can irritate a damaged esophageal lining, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, and pepper, should also be avoided if they cause symptoms. Other ways to reduce GERD – reduce the size of meals, eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, eat at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, elevate the head of your bed on 6 inch blocks (or we use books) if you experience GERD symptoms – do not use pillows to elevate your head as it can cause other issues with your throat, if you smoke – STOP!
Your doctor may recommend a prescription medication to help reduce the effects of GERD, but remember, taking a medication will only help if you stop doing some of the things that cause it in the first place! Ultimately, it may help you to stop having these symptoms.
A change in your diet and lifestyle will most definitely have an effect on any acid reflux or GERD you may be experiencing. Things you might consider eliminating from your diet may be: Milk/dairy products including cheese (I know this is a biggy for a lot of people), bread (gluten another biggy!), Potato chips and junk food, chocolate, peppermint. Try it for a couple of weeks up to a month to see if it makes a difference in your acid reflux. I know for sure it made a difference for me. I haven’t had to rely on medications for GERD or acid reflux since 2014, since I first went on my elimination diet. It literally cleared it up!
I’m not trying to scare you, but if after doing some of the things suggested above, you still have recurring GERD issues, it’s best to consult with your medical team. There may be other underlying issues that are causing it and may indeed need to be looked at with some procedures they use to determine if GERD is a serious enough issue to warrant further investigation or surgery.
Long term GERD can result in scarring of the esophagus which in turn could lead to Barrett’s Esophagus which could ultimately lead to esophageal cancer. I truly believe being armed with information can give you a heads up in certain situations, and this happens to be one of them.
I know my family has issues with GERD or acid reflux and I also know that what I’m doing right now with my diet and lifestyle has helped me immensely.
As you know, I am not a medical professional and recommend that if you have any health issues, you see your medical team to get assistance.
Have a blessed day and week ahead.