Do you have heartburn?

We all have a valve at the end of our esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter. This valve is supposed to stay closed to protect our esophagus from acid. For various reasons, this valve can become weakened and allow acid to backflow into the esophagus. It generally happens while the stomach is releasing acid and churning to break down and digest food. The stomach has a lining that is meant to come into contact with acid, whereas the esophagus does not! This backflow is what most people feel when they are having symptoms of heartburn. Over time, this constant reflux will cause damage and inflammation to develop. 

Everyone can experience heartburn at one time or another. When acid reflux and heartburn occur more than twice a week, this may indicate GERD.

Symptoms of GERD:

Some people will feel burning in their chest, while others will not. 

Silent Reflux can often manifest as difficulty swallowing foods or liquids, a persistent cough, a change in the quality of your voice, constant clearing of your throat, and sometimes even hiccups. 

What can worsen GERD? 

  1. Obesity
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Certain medications
  4. Smoking

Certain foods can make reflux worse. 

  • Meals high in fat and oils
  • Tomatoes or tomato-based foods
  • Citrus foods
  • Garlic and onions
  • Chocolate
  • Products high in caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Peppermint

What can improve GERD?

In addition to limiting your intake of the above foods, you can also: 

  • Lose weight
  • Keep the head of your bed elevated at night to help gravity keep acid in your stomach while you sleep
  • Avoid laying down right after eating, and make sure your last meal is at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing
  • Chew gum or suck on a lozenge to help promote salivation, which can help neutralize acid
  • Stop smoking as this decreases salivation and promotes the effects of acid reflux

When to see a doctor:

If you have tried lifestyle modifications, they have not worked, and you continue to have persistent symptoms your physician can prescribe medications to decrease acidity and help promote healing of inflamed tissue in your stomach and esophagus. Sometimes a short-term regimen is all that is needed. Other times you may require longer courses of treatment. There are also more severe symptoms that may need further evaluation and an endoscopy. 

For more information on GERD, you can download our brochure at the link: GERD Brochure


Digestive Health Specialists, PA is here to help if you, or someone you know, would like more information or if you are experiencing any digestive health symptoms and would like further evaluation. Feel free to give us a call at 336-768-6211 or fill the form below.

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