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HEAL

Your heartburn could actually be GERD

Heartburn can make it difficult to enjoy some of your favorite foods and drinks and impact your quality of life. Occasional heartburn is one thing, but long-term, chronic heartburn can be a sign of a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Don’t worry. With the right treatment plan, you don’t need to put up with daily symptoms. Keep reading to find out if you could have GERD and discover the best treatment options for you.

What is GERD?

GERD is a disorder that allows food and stomach acid to back up, or reflux, into your esophagus. Your esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. GERD can cause symptoms such as heartburn or acid indigestion.

In normal digestion, your food moves down your esophagus into your stomach, passing through your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a flap valve that connects your esophagus to your stomach. It opens to let food into your stomach and then closes. If you have GERD, this process doesn’t always work well.

The good news is that GERD is not usually a life-threatening disease—and you can treat the condition with diet, lifestyle changes and medicine.

Get heartburn relief with simple remedies to put out the fire.

Common causes of GERD

Some common causes of GERD include:

  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Diet. Certain foods and beverages can weaken the LES.
    Some of these are:
    - chocolate 
    - peppermint
    - fried or fatty foods
    - coffee
    - alcohol
  • Hiatal hernia. In a hiatal hernia, part of your stomach moves into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm. The contents of your stomach can remain above this opening.
  • Obesity.
  • Pregnancy. Hormone changes and a growing uterus can crowd your intestines and stomach.

Symptoms of GERD

GERD symptoms can range from mild to severe. Test yourself for GERD to prevent potential complications or long-term health problems.

Test yourself for GERD

Do you have any of these symptoms two or more times a week?

  • heartburn or acid indigestion
  • a feeling that food is returning to your mouth
  • an acidic or bitter taste in your mouth
  • chronic coughing
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Do you take over-the-counter medicines such as Tums®, Zantac® and Prilosec® more than three times a week?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have GERD. Schedule an appointment online to see a provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Are your GERD symptoms becoming more persistent or severe? Know when heartburn may be more than just pain.

Treatment for GERD 

Dietary and lifestyle changes work for most people with GERD. These include:

  • avoiding foods and beverages that can weaken the LES such as chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, coffee and alcohol
  • avoiding foods and beverages that can irritate, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomato products and pepper
  • eating smaller meals
  • eating your last food at least two to three hours before bedtime
  • losing weight if you are overweight
  • elevating the head of your bed six inches
  • taking over-the-counter or prescription medicine for long-term (chronic) heartburn.

Your health care provider may also recommend minimally invasive surgical procedures and surgery to fix your LES if you have chronic GERD.

How GERD is diagnosed

If other treatments do not provide relief from your symptoms, talk with your health care provider. They may order diagnostic tests such as:

  • Upper GI series. An upper GI (gastrointestinal) uses special X-rays to view your esophagus, stomach and upper smaller intestine (duodenum) to rule out other causes of your heartburn.
  • Endoscopy. A tiny video camera on the end of an endoscope examines the lining of your esophagus. The doctor may take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) for testing.
  • BRAVOTM Reflux Testing. This test measures the acid (pH) level in your esophagus and how frequently you have acid reflux from your stomach into the esophagus.

Complications of GERD

It’s important to treat GERD to avoid serious complications of long-term heartburn such as:

  • Esophagitis. Too much stomach acid in your esophagus. You could develop esophageal bleeding or ulcers. 
  • Chronic scarring. Scar tissue build-up may narrow your esophagus over time. 
  • Barrett’s esophagus. Severe damage to the lining of your esophagus. This condition may eventually lead to you developing esophageal cancer.

Leave the days of “dealing with” GERD behind. Take charge of your health by managing GERD symptoms and find the best treatment options for you.

 

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