What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD, effects between 15 and 30-percent of the U.S. population, according to Healthline.com (Thomas, 2019). Commonly confused with acid reflux, GERD is moderate acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week, or severe acid reflux that occurs at least once a week.
GERD is the rise of stomach acid into the tube that connects the stomach and mouth can irritate the lining of the esophagus. This can lead to heartburn after eating, chest pains, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or sour tasting liquid, or a feeling of a lump in the throat. GERD can also cause nighttime symptoms which can lead to chronic cough, laryngitis, disrupted sleep and new or worsening asthma.
Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you, which can vary depending on the severity of your condition. Some common treatment options include:
Antacids: This includes common brands such as Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta. This is a short term solution that can provide temporary relief.
- NOTE: Overuse of certain antacids can cause side effects such as diarrhea and kidney issues (Mayo, 2021).
Medications to reduce acid production: Medications can provide longer lasting relief in comparison to antacids. According to the Mayo Clinic, common medications include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), and nizatidine (Axid AR). These medications are known as H2 Receptor Blockers and can reduce acid production for up to 12 hours. Stronger medication can be accessed via a prescription.
Medication that blocks acid production and heal the esophagus: These medications, known as proton pump inhibitors, are even stronger acid blockers than those listed above. The increased strength allows for an irritated esophagus to heal and are available over the counter. These include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24 HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC).
Prescription medications are available should your doctor recommend them. He or she could recommend prescription strength H-2 reception blockers, proton pump inhibitors, or medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. This option will keep stomach acid from rising, thus helping the esophagus heal.
What can I do to reduce symptoms?
There are several ways you can manage your GERD symptoms. One of the best ways to do so is to maintain a healthy weight and to stop smoking if you do currently. Smoking is proven to weaken the esophageal sphincter. Read our article about some non-conventional GI treatment options as well >> here.
Certain foods can trigger GERD symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, those suffering from GERD should avoid fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and coffee. It is also recommended you chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly, along with waiting three hours before lying down (Mayo, 2021).
To learn more about GERD, its symptoms and treatment click here.