Southeastern Health

What is GERD?

That’s not a very pretty word, is it?  But, GERD, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a very common, yet uncomfortable problem to have.  If you’re familiar with a painful burning sensation in your chest after you eat, you may have GERD.  When you have GERD, stomach acid feels as if it’s backing up toward your mouth.  Heartburn is a classic symptom of GERD, but you may have felt other symptoms as well.

Some of the common symptoms you may experience if you have GERD are:

  • Frequent heartburn or heartburn at night
  • Sour-tasting fluid backing up into your mouth
  • Frequent need to take antacids
  • Frequent burping or belching
  • Symptoms that get worse after you eat, bend over, or lie down
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

Chest pain caused by GERD may feel similar to that caused by heart problems, so be sure to have all chest pain evaluated by a doctor. 

During your evaluation, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and your lifestyle, and may do some tests, such as an X-ray, blood tests, or an examination of the stomach through a tube called an endoscope.  These tests help your doctor determine the cause of your symptoms and will help him choose the best treatment for you. 

Oftentimes, GERD can be controlled by certain lifestyle changes.  Some of the following suggestions can be discussed with your doctor:

  • Watch your eating habits:  Certain foods may increase the acid in your stomach, making GERD more likely.  Foods to avoid include: coffee, tea, cola drinks (with or without caffeine), carbonated drinks; fatty or spicy foods; mint, chocolate, onion and tomatoes.  Be careful to avoid other foods that seem to irritate your stomach or cause you pain.
  • Beware of tobacco and alcohol: Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol can make GERD more likely and make your symptoms worse.  Try avoiding both of these products in any form and see if your condition improves.
  • Raise your head: GERD (reflux) is more likely to strike when you’re lying down flat because stomach fluid can flow backward more easily.  Try raising the head of your bed four to six inches.  You may do this by using slide blocks or by placing books under the legs of the head of your bed, or by placing a wedge under the head area of your mattress.  Tilt the whole bed or mattress rather than trying to sleep on several pillows, which increases pressure on your stomach and can actually make GERD worse.

 

Ask your doctor about medications and he/she may recommend something to reduce stomach acid and improve the working of your digestive system.  Also, your doctor can inform you which medications to avoid because they can possibly make GERD worse. 

In very rare cases, GERD may not respond to lifestyle changes or medications.  Your doctor may inform you that surgery is the only alternative, and in this case he/she will give you information needed to make an informed decision.

Additional Tips:

  • Eat smaller meals, even if you have to eat more often.
  • Don’t lie down right after you eat.  Wait a few hours for your stomach to empty.
  • Avoid tight belts and tight-fitting clothes.  These put too much pressure on your stomach.
  • Lose extra weight.  Too much weight can put pressure on your abdomen and lead to reflux.

 

November is National Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Awareness Month. Dr. Harvey H. Allen Jr. and Certified Physician Assistant John “Tad” Edwards provide care at the Southeastern Digestive Health Center, an affiliate of Southeastern Regional Medical Center, which is located at 730 Oakridge Blvd., Suite A, in Lumberton. For more information about GERD or other digestion-related disorders, or to schedule an appointment, call 738-3103.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 November 2011 15:04 )  
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