Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach.GERD is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach.

During normal digestion, the LES opens for food to pass into the stomach and then closes to prevent that food and any acid from the stomach from flowing back in the esophagus. But, with GERD, the LES is weak or relaxes, allowing a backflow into the esophagus.

If this is happening frequently and is left untreated, stomach acids may be wreaking havoc on your esophagus, enflaming its lining and potentially narrowing it.

Symptoms of GERD

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is described as a burning chest pain that begins behind the breastbone and moves upward to the neck and throat. It can last as long as two hours and is often worse after eating. Chronic heartburn can sometimes lead to serious complications.

How to Prevent GERD

First, you can manage mild heartburn by eating smaller meals. You should also try to finish dinner three to four hours before bed and avoid late-night snacks – having food in your stomach when you lie down can trigger reflux.

Eating certain foods can also contribute to your heartburn. Foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, caffeinated products and peppermint can relax the LES, triggering a backflow. In addition, foods that are high in fats and oils can also lead to heartburn.

Aside from food, some lifestyle factors can also cause and contribute to heartburn. Excess stress and a lack of sleep can result in an increase in acid production, also contributing to heartburn. Smoking, among all of its other harmful health effects, can relax the LES and stimulate stomach acid, serving as a major heartburn contributor.

Being overweight or obese can put pressure on your stomach, hindering the LES’s ability to close tightly.

Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the production of stomach acid, neutralize it and lessen the release of it, as well as medications that speed up the movement of food from your stomach to intestines.

Related Locations