Do You Have Heartburn?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition in which excessive amounts of stomach acid “refluxes” or flows backward into the esophagus. When this happens, it can cause the burning sensation know as heartburn.

Heartburn is extremely common, especially among the elderly and women during pregnancy, and is experienced by more than 60 million Americans at least once a month. Occasional heartburn is normal; however, if you are experiencing heartburn frequently you may have GERD, and you should seek medical attention. Chronic GERD, if untreated, can cause serious complications, including a predisposition to cancer of the esophagus.

Symptoms

  • Heartburn—the most common symptom of GERD usually happens after meals or when lying down
  • Regurgitation—refluxed liquid from the stomach back into the mouth
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Hoarseness, especially in the morning
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough or constant clearing of throat
  • Bad breath
  • Frequent belching (usually acid-tasting)

Lifestyle Recommendations

Heartburn or GERD may occur less often if you make simple changes in daily life, including the following:

  • Adjust your eating habits; eat smaller meals and stay upright after meals
  • Avoid foods that trigger heartburn: chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus juices, garlic and onions, tomato-based foods
  • Stop smoking
  • Decrease or eliminate alcohol, especially red wine
  • Decrease or eliminate caffeine
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Chew gum after meals. Doing so stimulates the production of bicarbonates in saliva
  • Elevate upper body at night (not just elevation of head) by raising the head of your bed 4-6 inches with blocks

Next Steps

If you are experiencing frequent heartburn, you should take a gastroesophageal reflux disease risk assessment and discuss your symptoms and results of the assessment with your primary care provider.

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE. PLEASE BE SURE TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF A LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE ADMINISTERING ANY MEDICAL CARE.

Related Stories