All You Need to Know About Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

If you’re experiencing heartburn often, it might be more serious than you think.

Woman having symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Have you ever felt it? The sensation of burning in your chest or indigestion after enjoying a spicy burrito or a thick slab of chocolate cake? Many people experience occasional heartburn that can be triggered by certain foods. But did you know that over 20% of Americans are experiencing reflux of stomach acid chronically, and might be suffering from a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Here are some facts about GERD:

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic illness that causes stomach acid or bile to irritate the stomach lining and back up into the esophagus. This disease is common, and studies estimate that 1 in 5 adults suffer from it.

What are the symptoms?

Although anyone can suffer from heartburn from time to time, GERD is usually diagnosed after prolonged and reoccurring symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.

  • The most common symptoms are feeling a burning sensation in the chest, regurgitation of food or stomach acid, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, laryngitis, and chronic dry cough, chronic sore throat
  • Without a proper diagnosis or treatment, complications can arise from this disease, including an increased risk for respiratory problems, damage to the esophagus, chronic inflammation, and esophageal cancer

Who is at risk?

GERD can affect anyone, but those most at risk are pregnant women, people who take certain medications like antidepressants or sedatives, smokers, or those often exposed to secondhand smoke, obese individuals, and people who have a hiatal hernia that commonly occurs in the diaphragm.

How can you reduce symptoms?

GERD is unfortunately an incurable chronic illness, but thankfully there are lots of ways to reduce and manage the symptoms to allow you to keep living your best life. Here are just a few suggestions to help you reduce GERD symptoms:

  • Your doctor can direct you to both prescription and over-the-counter acid reducers to manage your stomach acid levels
  • Many symptoms of GERD are triggered by certain foods, but not all sufferers of GERD are triggered by the same foods. The most common foods to avoid are carbonated sodas, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, fatty foods, spicy foods, and coffee. You can try keeping a food journal and recording symptoms that occur a few hours after eating to help you make informed dietary changes for your condition
  • Some foods are known to reduce acid reflux symptoms like green vegetables, whole grains, proteins like fish or poultry, yogurt, ginger, and healthy fats like avocados
  • Sleeping on an incline to support your head and neck can help reduce acid reflux at night when it often is at its worst
  • Lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity each day, losing weight as directed by your doctor, and giving up habits like drinking and smoking will improve your symptoms immensely

Related: “7 Natural Remedies for Heartburn”

If you believe you may be suffering from GERD, don’t panic. There are many resources available to those suffering from chronic heartburn, but the best resource of all is an appointment with your primary care physician. They can guide you through your options and get you feeling better in no time!

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