Most people have experienced the feeling of heartburn after a heavy meal every once in a while, however for people with GERD, the feeling may occur on a daily basis with serious consequences. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition caused by the backward flow of gastric juice into the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach) resulting in symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, painful swallowing, throat soreness, and chest pain.
Here are the top 5 things you need to know about GERD:
- Foods to Avoid: Avoiding acidic foods and those that irritate the stomach such as citrus fruits, spicy and oily foods, black pepper, and caffeine can help manage the symptoms of GERD.
- The Harmful Effect of Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol causes the esophageal sphincter to relax allowing the backward flow of gastric juices into the esophagus. Limited alcohol intake is a key factor in the management of GERD symptoms.
- Portion Control: Filling up your plate on the buffet line can result in a very full stomach with the inevitable spillage of gastric juices into the esophagus. Eating smaller meals will help reduce your risk of developing the disease.
- Staying Upright: Lying down immediately after a meal will cause gastric juice to flow easily into the esophagus and may worsen your symptoms. It is recommended that you stay upright for 3 hours after a meal. Raising the head of the bed by 8 inches can reduce heartburn symptoms experienced at night.
- Complications: If left untreated GERD can cause chronic inflammation of the esophagus leading to severe complications such as narrowing of the esophagus, ulcers, and precancerous changes.
If you are only experiencing occasional heartburn symptoms, follow the dietary and lifestyle recommendations listed above, these might help resolve your condition. However, if you are suffering with severe symptoms that interfere with your activities of daily living, please consult your doctor. Your doctor can help guide you to the best prevention and treatment strategies.
At Greater Houston Gastroenterology, we provide specialized services and treatments for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions. Our dedicated clinical staff and physician assistants are available to assist in delivering high-quality treatment and expert care. As the largest GI group in the greater Houston area, we offer 17 locations for your convenience.