Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Reflux is a condition in which stomach acids escape from the stomach and flow back up the esophagus.

This is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux, and it is experienced as the feeling we know commonly as heartburn. If you experience heartburn two or more times a week on a regular basis, you may want to talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Causes

When you swallow, food travels down the esophagus to a valve at the top of the stomach which opens to let it pass and then closes. In reflux patients, that valve doesn't close tightly enough. Stomach acid then escapes from the stomach and moves back up (reflux is literally "flowing again") into the esophagus.

Managing GERD

For many people, prescription medications are often able to manage the symptoms of reflux disease. There are also lifestyle changes that can help patients manage reflux disease symptoms. Patients are often advised to:

  • Change eating habits
  • Eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals
  • Wait two to three hours after eating before lying down to sleep
  • Avoid late-night snacks
  • Avoid food which contain high levels of natural acids or those that relax the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. These include spicy foods, chocolate, mint, alcohol, tomatoes, oranges, and coffee.
  • Quit using tobacco products
  • Raise the head of your bed six to eight inches by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress (adding extra pillows does not work)
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Lose weight if needed—even five to ten pounds can help

 

Find a Physician

Video

Jason Myers, D.O., Lakeshore Health Partners - Family Medicine discusses gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), testing and available treatments.
Steve VanWylen, MD, Lakeshore Health Partners--General Surgery, discusses when surgery may be the best option for GERD.