Is It Just Heartburn Or Could It Be GERD?
Just like with the lower GI tract, the upper portion of our digestive system can be affected by many problems. One of these problems is heartburn, a common symptom of GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). In short, everything we eat and drink passes from the mouth to the esophagus to the stomach, where it is broken down by the powerful acid. However, the esophagus can be damaged if the stomach acid refluxes. To keep this from happening, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) acts as a barrier. GERD occurs when the LES fails to stop the acid from leaking into the esophagus, leading to the burning pain in your throat that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Heartburn affects about 15 million Americans per day, and four times that many experience it less often. Here are some ways to prevent and treat your heartburn symptoms to make living through it more bearable.
- Posture: When you lie back, it makes it easier for stomach acid to move into the esophagus. This is why heartburn symptoms often show up at bedtime. To prevent this from happening, elevate your head by using extra regular bed pillows or a wedge-shaped pillow.
- Diet: Avoid fatty foods, chocolate, peppermint, coffee, alcohol, tomatoes, and citrus fruits and juices. Try to eat smaller meals, and don’t eat closer than two hours before bedtime. Studies also show that if you lose weight, you’ll experience heartburn less often.
- Antacids: Don’t rely on antacids as an ongoing treatment because it won’t fix the problem. Antacids will just lessen the pain for now–and it might even cause health problems. To be safe, see your doctor.
Your heartburn could be a sign of GERD. If you experience these symptoms, it may be time to see a doctor.
- Heartburn occurs 2 or more times per week.
- Your heartburn wakes you up consistently at night.
- Additional symptoms which may include stomach pain, the feeling of food stuck in your throat, trouble swallowing, chronic sore throat.
If you suspect you might be experiencing GERD, you should contact your doctor. Don’t ignore the symptoms. A gastroenterologist will be able to help you ease and manage your GERD with medication and lifestyle changes. You will learn which “trigger foods” to avoid and find out if weight loss or changes in meal size can help ease your discomfort. The doctors at Vanguard Gastroenterology are committed to helping you live your most healthy life!
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