Understanding GERD

One of the most common causes of heartburn, especially chronic heartburn, is GERD. GERD stands for “Gastroesophageal reflux disease,” and it affects millions of people each year. A greater understanding of GERD can help you deal with the symptoms and, in some cases, experience significant relief.

What puts you at risk for GERD?

There are a number of different elements that can cause risk for GERD, including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • A hiatal hernia

There are also several different types of medications that can cause or aggravate GERD:

  • Seasickness medications
  • Beta Blockers used for heart trouble or hypertension
  • Calcium channel blockers, also used for hypertension
  • Progestin, which is common in birth control
  • Anxiety- or insomnia-related sedatives
  • Certain antidepressants

If you have multiple factors from these lists and experience heartburn on a regular basis, you may have GERD.

How do I know if I have GERD?

Your doctor may do a variety of tests to determine whether you’re suffering from GERD. That might include an EGD, a type of scope through which your doctor will look at the small intestine, stomach and esophagus. It could also include barium X-rays, monitoring of the pH of your esophagus, and other tests.

In many cases, severe symptoms are enough for a diagnosis of GERD. Symptoms include:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea after you eat
  • The feeling you have food stuck in the esophagus
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Trouble with swallowing
  • Hiccups
  • A hoarse voice
  • Sore throat

How do I get relief from GERD?

Prevention is one of the best ways to avoid tye symptoms of GERD. Stay away from foods that trigger your GERD. Avoid ibuprofen and naproxen for pain, and instead use acetaminophen. Make sure you drink lots of water when you take your medications.

Some people get brief relief from antacids, and they can also cause diarrhea or constipation. There are over-the-counter as well as prescription medications that might be able to help, as well.

Many people experience GERD relief from the same kinds of natural products used to treat nausea, as well.