For many people, heartburn is more than just an occasional annoyance. These people have a common digestive problem called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). With GERD, the contents of the stomach flow back up into the esophagus.
Many things can cause GERD, including digestive muscles that do not work properly; obesity; pregnancy and lifestyle. Although GERD is rarely life-threatening, it can lead to bleeding or ulcers in the esophagus. Plus, it may increase a person’s risk for certain cancers of the esophagus.
Dysphagia (the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus)
Chronic sore throat
Inflammation of the gums
Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
Chronic irritation in the throat
Hoarseness in the morning
A sour taste
Your doctor may suggest a special test to check for the condition.
According to the IFFGD, lifestyle choices often help ease the discomfort of GERD. These include:
Staying away from foods that have caffeine, onions, tomatoes, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, citrus fruits or a lot of spices or fat
Losing weight, if overweight
Raising the head of the bed by six inches
Not lying down within three hours after eating
Not wearing tight-fitting clothes
Not eating large meals
People with GERD sometimes need medications to ease their symptoms. Over-the-counter antacids can help. But when antacids aren’t enough, other medications can help lower acid. Lifestyle changes and medications help most people. For those with more serious cases of GERD, doctors may suggest other forms of treatment or surgery.
If you have GERD, your doctor can help you decide the best treatment for you.