Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to the backup of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth into the stomach.
The most common symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn and regurgitation. Heartburn refers to a burning feeling in the area of the chest. Regurgitation refers to acid or undigested food flowing back into the throat. It is important for patients to know that other symptoms can be related to underlying reflux disease which include stomach or chest pain, trouble swallowing, sore throat, raspy voice, unexplained cough, chronic nausea or vomiting.
• Avoid foods that may be triggers symptoms: Coffee, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, carbonated beverages, chocolate, peppermint, garlic, onions, fatty foods, spicy foods or fried foods
• Weight loss (if overweight)
• Quit smoking cigarettes
• Raise the head of your bed by six to eight inches
• Avoid late night meals
• Avoid tight fitting clothing
Mild acid reflux can be managed by adjusting diet accordingly, making necessary lifestyle modifications and using over the counter medications. It is recommended to see a doctor if your symptoms persist, are severe or have been present for a long period of time.
Seek immediate attention if your acid reflux is associated with difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing, black tarry stools, blood in their stools, unexplained weight loss, persistent vomiting, a family history of stomach cancer, anemia (low blood count) or new onset of symptoms at a late age.
There are many tests available that help in the diagnosis and management of GERD. These include upper endoscopy, pH testing, esophageal manometry and specialized X-rays of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Based on severity and frequency of symptoms, acid reflux is treated differently. In all cases, dietary and lifestyle modifications should be employed. For many, particularly those with mild disease and intermittent symptoms, simply adhering to an anti-reflux diet and lifestyle modifications will lead to a great improvement in overall symptoms. For mild and intermittent symptoms, patients can be started on certain over the counter medications on an as needed basis. If patients have severe disease or persistent symptoms, prescription medications may need to be started along with continued dietary and lifestyle modifications. Additional testing may be required for further evaluation.
If left untreated, chronic acid reflux can lead to significant complications. Acid reflux can cause inflammation and damage to the esophagus known as esophagitis. This can progress to precancerous changes in the lining of the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus. If left uncontrolled, Barrett’s esophagus is a risk factor for the development of esophageal cancer.
The information provided above is meant to be used as an informative guide for patients. For precise and individualized recommendations, please consult with one of our board certified gastroenterologists to discuss your symptoms.
For additional information or to book an appointment at the Gastroenterology Center of New York, please feel free to reach out to our dedicated team by calling us at 718-210-2960. You can also schedule online or reach out to us via the Contact Us form.