Coping with Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Many of us have felt the common discomfort of indigestion or heartburn — signs and symptoms that the food you just ate does not agree with you. A little unpleasantness now and again is very common, but when the simple symptoms of heartburn occur more than once a week or are accompanied by a cough, sore throat, trouble swallowing, or regurgitation of stomach contents, it could be something that requires medical attention, such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, occurs when stomach acid enters up into the esophagus. The esophagus is sensitive to acid, causing symptoms of burning in the chest and sometimes regurgitation of fluid. This can happen when the muscle / sphincter between the esophagus and stomach is week or relaxes too often. This can also occur when there is a sizable hiatal hernia, or when the esophagus does not empty contents adequately.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic form of acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week. The chronic esophageal acid exposure due to GERD can cause worrisome changes of the esophagus such as ulcers, bleeding, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes Barrett’s esophagus, a potentially serious complication.
Acid Reflux/GERD Management
Although symptoms of acid reflux and GERD are disruptive, there are treatment options. "If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should talk to your doctor," advises Emil Slovak, Jr., MD, internal medicine physician with Summit Medical Group Arizona. "It is possible that you can find symptom relief by implementing some simple lifestyle changes like diet modification and refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol."
Diet Changes That May Help
For those suffering the uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux, paying close attention to one’s diet can be critical. Limiting or avoiding alcohol, coffee, chocolate, greasy foods, and peppermint will help reduce symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes That May Help
Wearing loose fitting clothing, avoiding tobacco, eating small meals rather than large ones, and not eating two hours before bedtime could also help to reduce symptoms.