Many people experience heartburn from time to time from heavy, fatty or spicy food, which is normal. However, if it happens at least twice a week or prevents you from doing your normal day-to-day activities and affects your quality of life, you may be diagnosed with a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Additional symptoms can include:
- acid regurgitation
- chest pain
- hoarseness or sore throat
- bitter or sour taste in your mouth
- bad breath
- throat tightness
- trouble swallowing
- sensation of a lump in your throat or choking
What is GERD?
GERD is a chronic digestive condition. The stomach contents move up into the esophagus due to a defect in the valve between the stomach and the lower esophagus. If untreated or poorly controlled, it can lead to ongoing symptoms, poor quality of life and possibly serious complications. The stomach acid can erode your esophagus and cause ulcers to form, which can bleed and make it difficult to swallow. Swallowing can also be impeded by
scar tissue that forms over time and narrows the esophagus. Chronic inflammation for years can result in cellular changes, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which may increase your risk of cancer.
Don’t dismiss heartburn or other symptoms. Consult with a doctor. If you are diagnosed with GERD, your health care provider will partner with you to come up with a treatment strategy. In some cases, surgery is recommended, but GERD can usually be successfully treated with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
- Avoid foods and beverages that can make GERD worse like tomatoes, citrus, peppermint, chocolate and caffeinated drinks. Greasy or spicy meals can also be irritating.
- Do not eat too much or too fast.
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before sleep.
- Raise the head of your bed to help gravity keep the contents of your stomach down. Do not use pillows to elevate your head; it puts too much pressure on the abdomen.
- If you are overweight, losing a few kilos will help.
- Wear loose clothing and belts.
- Finally, stop smoking. Tobacco relaxes the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus, permitting acid reflux to occur.
You can have relief from indigestion through the proper evaluation and treatment of GERD. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or wish to learn more.