What is GERD? Symptoms, Treatment and Medication
Although many people experience heartburn or acid reflux occasionally, some people suffer from GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is an uncomfortable disease that can be managed with the help of lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications, but some people may need prescriptions or surgery to relieve the symptoms. Read on to find answers to some frequently asked questions about GERD.
When stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus, or the tube that connects your mouth and stomach, GERD will occur. This acid reflux can irritate your esophageal lining. GERD is different from occasional heartburn or acid reflux in that it occurs more frequently; for instance, it constitutes as GERD if you experience mild acid reflux twice a week or more, or moderate to severe acid reflux more than once a week.1
Symptoms of GERD entail a burning sensation in the chest, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or a sour-tasting liquid, or a feeling like there is a lump in the throat.1 Some of these symptoms may occur after eating or worsen at night. Nighttime acid reflux may include a chronic cough, laryngitis, new or worsening asthma, or disrupted sleep. These symptoms may sound similar to occasional heartburn, but the key difference is the frequent recurrence of the symptoms.
To diagnose you with GERD, your doctor will probably conduct a physical exam and ask you about the history of your symptoms, including how long you’ve been experiencing them. Your doctor may also want to check for any complications through the following additional assessments:1
- Upper endoscopy
- Ambulatory acid (pH) probe test
- Esophageal manometry
- X-ray of your upper digestive tract
Many lifestyle changes and over-the-counter (OTC) medications may alleviate your GERD symptoms, at least temporarily. These OTC medications include antacids; medications to reduce acid production, or H-2-receptor blockers; or medications to block acid production and heal the esophagus, or proton pump inhibitors.1 Lifestyle modifications include maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, sleeping with your head elevated, avoiding laying down after a meal, and avoiding tight-fitting clothing. If you don’t feel relief from your symptoms after a few weeks, your doctor may write you a prescription or recommend surgery.
To relieve your GERD symptoms, you may want to look at your diet as another lifestyle factor to change. Some foods can trigger acid reflux, including fatty foods, fried foods, tomato sauce or other acidic food, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and even caffeine.1 Choosing to avoid these triggers may relieve your symptoms. You may also want to consider changing the method you eat your food: try eating your meals slowly and be sure to chew thoroughly.
In addition to OTC medications to relieve symptoms, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications to treat your GERD. Some of these medications for GERD include prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers, prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors, or medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. 1 Only take these medications under guidance of your doctor.
If you think you are experiencing GERD, be sure to speak with your doctor. They can point you in the right direction of a treatment protocol specific to your needs. If you are experiencing occasional heartburn, or even heartburn for the first time, consider using TUMS Naturals.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940. Accessed 12/4/2020. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.
- Acid Reflux. American College of Gastroenterology. https://gi.org/topics/acid-reflux/. Accessed 09/04/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Heartburn Overview. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What Are the Differences Between Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What Is Heartburn? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/understanding-heartburn-basics. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Can a tight belt cause any physical harm? Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19517112/can-a-tight-belt-cause-any-physical-harm/. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Is there a link between heartburn and gas? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323458. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What Is Acid Reflux Disease? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/what-is-acid-reflux-disease#1-3. Accessed 10/17/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Heartburn. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/symptoms-causes/syc-20373223. Accessed 10/18/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Heartburn or heart attack: When to worry. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/in-depth/heartburn-gerd/art-20046483. Accessed 10/18/19. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.