GERD is the common term for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Sometimes it’s referred to as heartburn, indigestion, acid indigestion or acid reflux. GERD is a chronic condition. It occurs when stomach acid moves the wrong way, coming back from the stomach into the food pipe or esophagus. This acid will irritate your esophagus, resulting in GERD.
Basic signs and symptoms. The U.S. National Library of Health lists several symptoms you can watch for if you think you may be suffering from GERD. You may have some or all of these symptoms with GERD:
- The most common is heartburn, that burning ache in your chest that occurs after eating.
- Heartburn that feels worse at night or when you are lying down, stooping or bending.
- A feeling that food is stuck behind your breastbone.
- Difficulty swallowing, sore throat and hoarseness.
- Coughing and/or wheezing.
Lifestyle changes. GERD may be treated through lifestyle changes. One of the biggest lifestyle changes you can make if you are suffering from GERD is to quit smoking. If you are obese or overweight, your doctor may suggest you lose weight. Try to determine which foods or drinks trigger your GERD symptoms and avoid them when possible. When eating, slow down and consider eating more frequent but smaller meals instead of one or two large meals. Avoid constricting clothing, especially anything that binds around the waist or chest. Don’t give in to the temptation to lie down after a meal. Stay up and moving for at least three hours after meals.
Medication. Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your GERD in conjunction with various lifestyle changes. It may be as simple as over-the-counter antacids or a foaming agent to coat your stomach, which can then help reduce the reflux. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), doctors also may prescribe H2 blockers, which help decrease acid production as well as proton pump inhibitors and prokinetics. You may have to try a combination of lifestyle and medications to get your GERD under control.
Am I at risk? The Mayo Clinic states that people who are obese, smoke or are pregnant are at a higher risk for GERD. In addition, if you suffer from asthma, diabetes, hiatal hernia or dry mouth, your risk is increased. Other medical conditions that may increase your chance of GERD are scleroderma and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.