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GERD FAQ’s

GERD can be painful and difficult to ignore. You can try these simple lifestyle changes to stop or minimize esophageal damage and discomfort caused by GERD, even before your appointment with our doctor

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that impacts the function of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscles. When these muscles are abnormally weakened or relaxed, they can allow “reflux” of stomach content and acids up into the esophagus. The symptoms of GERD may include:

  • A burning sensation behind the breastbone (heartburn)
  • A sour taste in the mouth
  • The sensation of swallowed food re-entering the mouth
  • A feeling of fullness in the back of the throat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
What causes GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by frequent acid reflux. When you swallow, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), relaxes to allow food and liquid into the stomach. Then the LES closes again to prevent food and stomach acid from reentering the esophagus. If the LES relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The backwash of acid irritates the lining of the esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed. Another cause of GERD is a hiatal hernia, which is when the esophagogastric junction is in the chest rather than the abdomen. Individuals with hiatal hernias are predisposed to abnormal amounts of reflux.

How to treat GERD?

Home remedies and lifestyle changes can help treat the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). More severe cases of GERD can be mitigated by working with a gastroenterologist to discuss lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery or a combination.

These lifestyle changes can make a big impact on frequency of symptoms:

  • Avoid greasy or spicy foods
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Limit coffee, tea and carbonated drinks
  • Avoid large meals
  • Avoid eating within three hours before bedtime
  • Lose weight, if you’re overweight or obese
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Take over-the-counter antacid or H2 blocker medications
  • Elevate the head of your bed

Medical treatment, in which a gastroenterology specialist may:

  • Customize a dietary and medication plan
  • Prescribe medications that may help with acid reduction
  • Perform an upper endoscopy procedure to determine damage and take biopsies to rule out possible conditions or cancers
  • Place a pH monitor in the esophagus during an upper endoscopy to determine acidity levels and help strategize effective treatment and control of symptoms
  • Order a barium swallow imaging test to gain further information to properly diagnose and treat
Is treatment covered by insurance?

Coverage of the office visits, procedures and medications to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) varies by insurance provider. It is always best practice to check with your insurance provider to determine your coverage.

What’s the difference between GERD and heartburn?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that impacts the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It results in a chronic and severe form of acid reflux—which is when acid from the stomach moves back into the esophagus due to an abnormally relaxed or weakened LES. Heartburn is a symptom of GERD, causing a burning sensation in the chest due to stomach acid being present in the esophagus. Mild, infrequent heartburn is extremely common and can be treated with medications like antacids. But more severe, frequent (more than twice weekly) heartburn can be a symptom of GERD.

How is Barrett’s esophagus related to GERD?

Barrett’s esophagus is often diagnosed in people who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Only a small percentage of people with GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus. However, Barrett’s esophagus is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.