GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic disorder in which stomach acid frequently moves back up into the esophagus. This condition can irritate and, over time, damage the esophageal lining. If GERD is left untreated, it may lead to more serious health concerns. 

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

GERD typically develops when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) becomes impaired.  When the LES is weak or if it relaxes when it is not supposed to, stomach contents can flow back into the esophagus. Here are some factors that may increase the likelihood of getting GERD:

  • Being obese
    • Excess belly fat can put pressure on the abdomen and push stomach acid upward towards the esophagus. 
  • Being pregnant
    • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the LES to relax more often allowing stomach acid to move back. The expansion of the uterus can also press on the stomach and cause acid reflux.  
  • Having a hiatal hernia
    • A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach moves up into the chest. This condition can cause the LES to loosen, causing acid reflux.

Common signs and symptoms of GERD include: 

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn)
  • A sour taste in the back of your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sensation of having a lump in your throat
  • Coughing 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Chest pain

 

Various diet and lifestyle choices may aggravate GERD symptoms.  These include: 

  • Overeating
  • Eating fatty or fried foods
  • Drinking alcohol, coffee, or soft drinks
  • Smoking 
  • Certain medication such as those used for asthma, hypertension, and depression

Various medications may be given to patients to relieve GERD symptoms. These include: 

  • Antacids (e.g. aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide)
  • H2 blockers (e.g. famotidine, ranitidine)
  • Proton pump inhibitors (e.g. omeprazole)

 

For those with severe GERD, doctors may recommend surgery and other invasive procedures such as: 

  • Fundoplication 
  • LINX reflux surgery

Lifestyle changes can improve symptoms and reduce the frequency of GERD episodes. Here are some tips that may help: 

  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight 
  • Elevating your head when you sleep
  • Stop smoking 
  • Avoid consuming foods that can trigger acid reflux
  • Avoid lying down immediately after a meal
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes

 

For those with more serious symptoms, it is recommended to consult with your doctor to assess your treatment options.

 

REFERENCES: 

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022). Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940 

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022). Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20361959 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Symptoms & causes of ger & gerd. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes 

WebMD. (n.d.). Gerd: Symptoms, causes, treatments, remedies for relief. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1#091e9c5e80007c47-2-5 

Last Updated: February 21, 2024