Dr. M.J. Bazos,
disease or GERD is more commonly known as acid indigestion or heartburn. It is a
burning feeling behind the breastbone.
feeling can move up into the throat
and also give a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. Gastroesophageal reflux
disease is caused by stomach acid moving from your stomach up into your
esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach). This may happen if the
muscle between the stomach and esophagus is weak. There are conditions that may
aggravate this. They include diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, and medications used
to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions. Gastroesophageal reflux
disease is very common. About 5% of individuals have symptoms every day. About
15% have symptoms every week. Almost half of all individuals have symptoms at
least once a month. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is diagnosed most commonly
by history. If the symptoms do not improve with treatment or the pain is severe
or chronic, further studies are needed. An upper gastrointestinal (GI) series is
a special x-ray used to show the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the
intestine. The upper GI does not provide a lot of information about GERD, but it
helps identify other disorders that can cause a similar pain. Endoscopy, using a
small light tube with a tiny video camera on the end, can be done to identify
irritation in the esophagus.
With Your Diagnosis
The most common
symptom of GERD is heartburn. The burning, pressure or pain of GERD can last as
long as 1 or 2 hours and is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending over
can also make the pain worse. The pain associated with heartburn can be mistaken
for the pain of a heart attack or angina. However, the pain associated with the
heart is usually aggravated by exercise and relieved by rest. Heartburn pain is
usually not associated with physical
most cases, GERD can be relieved through diet and lifestyle modifications. For
immediate relief, antacids can neutralize the acid and stop the heartburn.
However, there are side effects with the longterm use of antacids. These include
diarrhea, altered calcium metabolism, and excess magnesium buildup in the body.
Over-the-counter and prescription strength histamine- 2
blockers are also available. These medications inhibit the secretion of acid by
the stomach. Another type of prescription drug is a proton pump inhibitor. These
drugs inhibit an enzyme needed for acid secretion. Other drugs are available to
strengthen the muscle and quicken stomach emptying. A small number of
individuals may need surgery because of severe GERD or poor response to
medications. The surgical procedure increases the pressure in the lower
esophagus, preventing acid from backing up from the
• Lose weight if
• Avoiding lying down
• Sleep with the head of
the bed elevated 6 inches by putting blocks of wood under the two legs at the
head of the bed.
• Take medications
with plenty of water.
• Eat four or
five small meals a day.
• Avoid alcoholic
beverages and caffeine products (coffee, tea, cocoa, cola
• Avoid fried, spicy, and
fatty foods, citrus juices and fruits, tomato products, peppermint, and spices
that aggravate the symptoms of
• Do not bend over or lie down
immediately after eating.
• Do not
• Avoid tight-fitting pants,
belts, and undergarments.
Call Your Doctor
• If the
symptoms worsen or do not improve after using general
• If you have pain that
happens with shortness of breath, sweating, or
• If you vomit blood or have
• Symptoms do not
improve after 1 month of