GERD: An irritating experience

Gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause great discomfort; learn more about this disease and some steps you can take to manage it.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be very uncomfortable and is a more frequent and serious form of acid reflux or acid regurgitation. As you eat and swallow your food, the muscle at the lower part of your esophagus allows partially digested food to enter your stomach. When this muscle, known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), fails to close, partially digested food rises up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux (a condition in which the lining of the esophagus is irritated and results in a burning sensation.)

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn
  • Burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
  • Regurgitating a sour or bitter-tasting acid into your throat or mouth
  • Bloating
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Bloody vomiting
  • Burping
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • A narrowing of your esophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Hiccups that don’t end
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat

If you’re experiencing GERD, making some dietary changes can relieve symptoms of gastric reflux and decrease gastric fluid in the esophagus. Most people who have GERD take antacids to neutralize gastric acid, but modifying the foods you eat can also give you added relieve from GERD.

Medical professionals recommend:

  • Decreasing high-fat meals and fried foods, which can increase the risk of reflux.
  • Avoid large meals which increase the likelihood of increased gastric (stomach) pressure and reflux.
  • Decrease your total caloric intake if weight loss is desired; since obesity may promote reflux, weight loss may be suggested by your health care provider to control reflux; reducing both total fat and caloric intake will aid in weight loss.
  • Avoid chocolate; it contains methylxanthine, which has been shown to cause relaxation of smooth muscles.
  • Avoid coffee depending on individual tolerance; coffee, with or without caffeine, may promote gastro esophageal reflux.

It’s recommended to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms. If you take over-the-counter medications for heartburn more than twice per week, see your doctor.

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