Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness Week is celebrated every year around the time of Thanksgiving to educate people about the signs and symptoms of the disease and what steps should be taken to treat or prevent its occurrence.
Most people have experienced the occasional acid reflux after a heavy Thanksgiving meal or when lying down, which is relatively harmless. Symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest, belching, sour taste in the mouth, and regurgitation of food. However, if these symptoms occur more than 2-3 times a week, you could be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and you need to consult your doctor for treatment.
Untreated GERD could cause significant damage to the inner lining of your esophagus leading to ulcers and premalignant changes. The stomach acid may even erode your teeth enamel over time.
You may be at a higher risk for developing GERD if you have the following conditions:
- Obesity: Being obese or overweight puts extra pressure on your diaphragm, which may cause reflux.
- Hiatal Hernia: This condition weakens the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Diabetes: Diabetics tend to suffer from gastroparesis, which causes food to stay in the stomach longer than normal.
- Asthma: Coughing and pressure in the lungs may cause leakage of stomach contents into the esophagus.
- Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: This medical condition is characterized by increased production of stomach acid.
- Connective Tissue Disorders: Certain connective tissue disorders may prevent the esophageal sphincter from closing properly resulting in upward flow of stomach contents.
- Specific Triggers: There may be specific foods or medications that cause acid reflux.
The occasional reflux symptoms may be treated with over-the-counter antacids and lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating small meals, and avoiding known triggers. However, if symptoms persist or get worse, you should visit your doctor or the specialists at Greater Houston Gastroenterology.