What is GERD?

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Published on November 12, 2020

What is GERD?

Photo of a woman covering her mouth while out diningGERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a digestive disorder. It's caused when gastric acid from your stomach flows back up into your food pipe (esophagus).

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, or acid reflux, is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning chest pain that starts behind your breastbone and moves up to your neck and throat. It can last as long as 2 hours. It often feels worse after you eat. Lying down or bending over can also cause heartburn. However, heartburn is not always a GERD symptom.

Another common symptom of GERD is bringing swallowed food up again to the mouth (regurgitation). Some people can have trouble swallowing and some people may have a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing instead.

According to PIH Health Gastroenerolgist, Jiaming “Jackson” Zhu MD, each person’s symptoms may vary. GERD symptoms may seem like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

How is GERD diagnosed?

To see if you have GERD, your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and ask about your past health. Some people with typical symptoms may be treated without more testing.

How is GERD treated?

In many cases making diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce GERD symptoms. Always check with your healthcare provider before making any changes.

If you have GERD, be careful about what you eat and drink. Don’t have too much of these:

  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruit and juices
  • Tomato products
  • Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks

You should also:

  • Eat smaller amounts
  • Not overeat
  • Quit smoking
  • Not drink too much alcohol
  • Wait a few hours after eating before you lie down or go to bed
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Raise the head of your bed 6 inches (to do this, put bricks, cinderblocks, or bedrisers under the bed legs at the head of the bed)
  • Check any medicines you are taking. Some may cause problems with the lining of your stomach or esophagus. You may also want to talk with your healthcare provider about:

What can I do to prevent GERD?

Some of the same diet and lifestyle changes that are used to treat GERD can also help to prevent it.

Living with GERD

Your healthcare provider will give you advice on how to manage your GERD symptoms. In most cases you will need to make some diet and lifestyle changes so that GERD pain won’t get in the way of your normal activities.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • Your GERD symptoms don’t get better with treatment, or they get worse
  • You have new symptoms
  • You start vomiting
  • You have involuntary weight loss
  • You have trouble or pain with swallowing
  • You have blood in your vomit or stool

Visit our website to learn more about Digestive Heath services at PIHHealth.

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The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.