What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

You may call it “heartburn”,”acid indigestion” or “acid reflux”, your Doctor may refer to it as gastroesophageal reflux disease, whatever the name you know to call it painful! Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is characterized by the acid from the stomach refluxing up into the esophagus. Unlike the lining of the stomach, the lining of the esophagus is not acid resistant and when the two come in contact the result is pain.

GERD is not just painful, but over time can cause burns, ulcers and bleeding. Unchecked it can lead to scarring and narrowing of the esophagus and in some cases even cancer. It is important to not just write off your heartburn as one of those things you learn to live with – if you are suffering from chronic GERD symptoms it’s time to make an appointment.

What is the usual treatment for reflux?

Depending on how severe your reflux is, you may find relief with medication and changes in your lifestyle.  Some changes that frequently lead to a lessening of symptoms include:

  • If you smoke, stop or at least cut down your use of tobacco. Cigarettes (and other types of tobacco products) cause increased acid secretion that can aggravate reflux and contribute to ulcer formation. In addition, tobacco use slows the healing ulcers and other GI problems.
  • Avoid large meals. Try to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Eating your meals slower can also help.
  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating. Wait at least 3 hours after meals before going to bed.
  • Elevate the head of your bed at least 4 inches, or as recommended by your Doctor, helps prevent the acid from your stomach back up into your esophagus.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, try to shed pounds.

Most patients respond well to medication, occasionally your physician at SoCal Gastro Group will need to order additional tests. Procedures would include an upper gi series of x-rays or an upper endoscopy, gastroscopy and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

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