GERD relief starts with lifestyle and dietary changes, says Kelsey-Seybold Gastroenterology specialist
Ever feel a burning sensation in your chest or throat? That’s what’s known as heartburn. Oftentimes you can taste stomach fluid in the back of your mouth. It’s not uncommon to have heartburn from time to time, but when the burning sensation occurs more than twice a week, it can be a sign of a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. In fact, chronic heartburn is one of the main symptoms of GERD. If your heartburn goes beyond the occasional episode, it may be time to speak with a gastroenterologist.
“GERD is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or stomach content flows back into your food pipe (esophagus). This backwash (reflux) irritates the lining of the esophagus and causes GERD,” says Neel Choksi, M.D., a board-certified specialist in Gastroenterology at Kelsey-Seybold’s Cypress Clinic and Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center.
“Both acid reflux and heartburn are common digestive conditions that many people experience. When these signs and symptoms occur frequently, or interfere with daily life, or when a doctor can see damage to the esophagus, GERD may be the diagnosis,” explains Dr. Choksi.
Symptoms of GERD include:
- A burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), sometimes spreading to the throat, along with a sour taste in your mouth.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Dry cough.
- Hoarseness or sore throat.
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux).
“With GERD, a constant backwash of acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus, causing it
to become inflamed. Over time, the inflammation can wear away the esophageal lining, causing
complications such as bleeding, esophageal narrowing or Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous
condition),” warns Dr. Choksi.
Common risk factors for GERD include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, asthma, diabetes, and connective tissue disorders such as scleroderma.
“Treatment for heartburn and other signs and symptoms of GERD typically begins with lifestyle and dietary modifications along with over-the-counter medications that help control acid. If there isn’t relief within a few weeks, prescription medications and surgery to reinforce or strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter may be recommended,” says Dr. Choksi.