What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). This frequent acid reflux can result in irritation of the lining of the esophagus.
Acid reflux occurs because the valve at the end of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t close properly when food hits the stomach. A backwash of acid then flows back up through the esophagus and into the throat or mouth, resulting in a sour taste.
Common symptoms of GERD include:
- Heartburn after eating or at night.
- Chest pain.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Sore throat.
- Chronic cough.
- Disrupted sleep.
How is GERD Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing GERD symptoms, be sure to bring this up with your doctor. He or she will be able to diagnose GERD based on a physical exam, a history of your symptoms and some tests. These tests may include upper endoscopy, esophageal manometry or an X-ray of the upper digestive system in order to confirm a diagnosis or check for complications.
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Treatment Options for GERD
There are many different treatment options for GERD, depending on the severity of your symptoms. These may include:
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Your doctor may suggest certain changes to help control your GERD symptoms such as eating smaller servings of food, eating slowly and avoiding certain foods that may trigger GERD such as caffeine, alcohol and fatty foods. Stopping smoking and staying at a healthy weight can also be helpful in managing symptoms.
Over-the-counter medications may be helpful for some cases of GERD. These may include antacids to neutralize stomach acid, medications to reduce stomach acid production or medications to block acid production and to help heal esophageal tissue.
If OTC medications are not effective in treating GERD, prescription-strength medications may be helpful. These may include H-2-receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors or medications to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.
Individuals who do not respond to medication may be good candidates for surgery. Your doctor might recommend fundoplication, which is a minimally invasive procedure that creates a new valve at the bottom of the esophagus. During this procedure, the upper part of the stomach called the fundus is wrapped around the lower part of the esophagus to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter. Another minimally invasive surgery is the LINX device implantation, in which a small ring of magnets is used to keep the junction between the stomach and esophagus closed.
Tips for Preventing GERD Symptoms
There are some steps that can be taken to prevent the frequent heartburn that occurs along with GERD. These include the following lifestyle changes for a more comfortable you:
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed.
- Prop up your head with a pillow while you sleep.
- Avoid taking NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Take acetaminophen instead.
- Keep stress levels down.
- Avoid trigger foods such as citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint, tomato products, garlic, onions and spicy or fatty foods.
What are the symptoms of GERD in adults?
Common GERD symptoms in adults include heartburn, chest discomfort, burning in the chest or throat, a bad taste in the mouth, and sometimes nausea and difficulty or painful swallowing.
What foods should be avoided with GERD?
There are certain foods that can make GERD symptoms worse, including alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, tomatoes, garlic, mint, spicy foods, fried foods and fatty foods.
Can GERD last for days?
Yes, some people can experience GERD symptoms on a daily basis and for long periods of time.
How can I sleep with acid reflux?
It has been found that sleeping on your left side can reduce acid reflux. You may also sleep with your upper body elevated. Sleeping on your back is the worst position for GERD, as it makes reflux more likely. Also it is best not to eat within three hours of going to bed.
Can GERD cause chest pain?
Yes sometimes, but there are many other causes of chest pain and you should first be evaluated by your primary care provider.
What is a hiatus hernia?
This occurs when the top of the stomach slips up through the hiatus of the diaphragm into the chest and typically worsens GERD.
What is Barretts esophagus?
Barretts esophagus is a GERD-related condition that develops in some adults with chronic reflux. It is a potentially precancerous condition that requires endoscopic surveillance. To advance Barretts esophagus treatment, South Denver GI was the first GI practice in Denver to add WATS3D to esophageal biopsies. This technology cells identifies precancerous cells at earlier stages, enabling treatment or removal long before the cells can turn into esophageal cancer.
What are some less typical GERD symptoms?
Sometimes GERD can cause a coughing, hoarseness, shortness of breath, painful throat, or a lump in the throat feeling.
Can GERD be asymptomatic but still cause complications?
Yes, some patients do not feel GERD symptoms, but may develop inflammation or esophagitis, and sometimes other complications such as strictures, with trouble swallowing or Barretts esophagus.
When should I seek GI care for GERD?
If you have persistent GERD symptoms, or worrisome alarm symptoms such as trouble swallowing, painful swallowing, weight loss, anemia or black stools, you should seek evaluation and care with a South Denver GI provider.
How is GERD treated?
GERD can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes, over the counter antacids and acid reducing medications. If your GERD is persistent or worsening, or if you have alarming symptoms, you should seek care with a South Denver GI provider.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about GERD or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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