Almost everyone experiences heartburn at some point in their lives. However, if your heartburn symptoms occur on a weekly basis or do not resolve with medications, you may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD Awareness Week (November 23rd – 29th) is observed in the week of Thanksgiving to highlight the importance of understanding and treating this potentially dangerous yet often overlooked condition.
As the name suggests, gastroesophageal reflux disease is characterized by the backflow or reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. If reflux occurs quite often, the inner lining of the esophagus can be damaged leading to ulcers, bleeding, strictures, lung inflammation, and precancerous changes.
The good news is that most instances of GERD can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes. In a few cases, medication or surgery may be required.
Here are a few simple tips for you to control your heartburn symptoms:
- Don’t lie down immediately after eating. Your last meal of the day should be at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow your food to be digested properly.
- Avoid overeating. Reducing portion size helps to prevents overflow of stomach contents into the esophagus.
- Avoid trigger foods. About 95% of people with heartburn are aware that certain foods trigger their reflux. Avoid these foods to significantly reduce your symptoms.
- Practice Mindful Eating. Eat at a leisurely pace and make sure to chew your food thoroughly. This prevents the production of excess stomach acid.
- Maintain a healthy body-mass index. Being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing GERD.
- Stop smoking and drinking. Nicotine has been known to weaken the esophageal sphincter and alcohol is one of the top trigger foods for heartburn.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes. Clothes that are too tight around the waist may cause reflux and heartburn symptoms.
It is estimated that about 40% of Americans suffer from GERD, yet many people remain undiagnosed because they aren’t aware of the symptoms. Let GERD Awareness week be a reminder to visit your doctor or a gastroenterologist if you experience regurgitation, heartburn, and nausea on a regular basis.
Greater Houston Gastroenterology is the largest full-service gastroenterology group in the Houston metropolitan area, bringing high quality, cost-effective personalized care to patients from The Woodlands and North Houston to Sugar Land, Richmond, Pearland, and Angleton.