It’s easy to dismiss heartburn and acid reflux, particularly if you’re easing your symptoms by taking antacids regularly.
But you shouldn’t. These symptoms could be a sign of GERD, a conditions that can lead to Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer if left untreated.
GER stands for gastroesophageal reflux: stomach acid flowing into the lower portion of your esophagus (the tube that joins your mouth to your stomach). This can cause symptoms including coughing after meals or at night, belching, heartburn (a burning sensation or pain in your chest), acid regurgitation, and upset stomach.
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease: a long-term condition characterized by GER symptoms that occur more than once a week. These symptoms may disrupt your sleep, which can affect how you feel and function during the day.
Anyone can suffer from GER and GERD—all ages, genders, and races. The root cause is often a dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the stomach and esophagus).
If your symptoms are severe and/or occur more than once a week, see your gastroenterologist immediately so that your symptoms can be treated before your GERD progresses to a more serious disease.
Your gastroenterologist can recommend treatments and advise you on lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms, such as:
Losing weight: excess weight increases pressure on your stomach and cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax.
Eliminating trigger foods and drinks:
- acidic foods and drinks: g. citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, alcohol, many fizzy drinks
- LES irritants:g. black pepper, peppermint, caffeinated drinks, and coffee.
- Foods high in fat, sugar, and salt also seem to increase symptoms in some people, so beware of salty snacks, sweet, fatty desserts, and fried foods.
These foods may not all affect you; try eliminating them systematically to assess your reaction.
Eating smaller, slower meals: take small bites, chew thoroughly, and eat more slowly. Smaller, more frequent meals are kinder to your stomach and LES.
Don’t lie down after eating: try not to lie down or slouch within 3 hours of eating—this can induce acid reflux for almost anyone
Stopping smoking: smoking damages membranes that protect the esophagus, increases acid secretion, reduces lower esophageal muscle function, and reduces saliva production (vital for acid neutralization).
Choose Expert, High-Quality, Affordable Care
Your gastroenterologist will assess your esophagus using diagnostic procedures such as an upper endoscopy and ask about your family history, personal medical history, lifestyle, and diet to determine the cause of your symptoms.
At Tulsa Endoscopy Center, every physician is fellowship-trained in gastroenterology and supported by expert medical staff. Patient experience is a top priority, but great healthcare doesn’t come at a premium—procedures cost a fraction of hospital-based procedures. Tulsa Endoscopy Center offers convenient drop-off and pick-up, enhanced safety accreditations, and more privacy.