Feeling the Burn? Let's talk about GERD!

Do you feel a burning sensation in your chest regularly after you eat? Well, you are not alone! In fact, one in five people in the United States is affected by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) every day. According to the National Institutes of Health, acid reflux occurs when the stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. When the acid in your stomach reaches the esophagus, it can cause heart burn, also known as indigestion. If this event occurs more than a few times a week , over multiple weeks, it can lead to GERD, an inflamed esophagus and even respiratory problems.

What causes GERD? 

The main causes of GERD are when the lower esophageal sphincter, the point where your esophagus meets your stomach, is weakened or is not functioning properly, causing the contents in the stomach to freely move back in your esophagus. 

What are the symptoms of GERD?

If you are experiencing GERD you may have:

  • pain or burning in the upper abdominal, chest and throat
  • a sour taste in your mouth
  • painful or difficulty swallowing
  • a sore throat
  • bad breath
  • regurgitation of food or stomach acid

Anyone can develop GERD, but it is more common in individuals who are obese, pregnant, smoke/frequently exposed to second-hand smoke or on certain medications.

Tips to manage GERD

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce your chances of having GERD, or managing your current GERD symptoms, to improve your overall digestive health.

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoid fatty, greasy and spicy foods
  • Avoid beverages like coffee and alcohol.
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Don’t lie down after eating
  • Sleep elevated
  • Wear loose clothing 

In addition, speak with your doctor about possible over-the-counter and prescription medication that can be used to treat GERD. In a few cases, GERD may be treated with surgery or other procedures. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above and are uncomfortable, speak with your primary care physician, who may refer you to a gastroenterologist.