May 3, 2017

GERD – General Overview

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder that affects millions of people every day. While GERD is not life threatening, it can greatly lower your quality of life by impacting your daily activities, what and when you eat or drink and your sleep.

The most common symptom of GERD is frequent and persistent heartburn which could last a few minutes to several hours. Other GERD symptoms include:

  • Regurgitation
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Feeling of food sticking in the throat
  • Chronic cough
  • Sore throat that won’t go away
  • Hoarseness
  • Frequent burping
  • Asthma
  • Bad breath
  • Gum inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Disturbed sleep

Treatment Options
The first steps in treating GERD generally include diet and lifestyle modifications. The following can help relieve mild symptoms:

  • Avoiding food, beverages and medications that may trigger acid reflux symptoms
  • Potential trigger foods: caffeine, cola, spicy foods, tomato products, chocolate, fried or fatty foods, citrus juice, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, mint and milk
  • Eating meals at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals
  • Raising the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches or using a wedge
    • Stacking multiple pillows is not recommended
  • Losing weight
  • Exercising on an empty stomach
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding tight clothing
  • Avoiding stress

Additional steps in treating GERD include over-the-counter or prescription medications. There are 3 types of medications:

  • Antacids- neutralize acid in the stomach
  • H2 Blockers- reduce acid production
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)- stop acid production

These medications are designed for short-term use and help relieve the symptoms of GERD. They do not stop the reflux or fix the issue with the lower esophageal sphincter.

If diet and lifestyle changes aren’t fixing the problem and you are still having symptoms on medication, or do not want to take medication long term, you may be a candidate for surgery.