Acid reflux disease
Acid reflux disease or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder in which stomach acid flows backward from the stomach into the esophagus. More than 60 million people in America suffer from GERD at least once a month, and 25 million adults experience its symptoms daily. Though GERD is most common among pregnant women and the elderly, people of all ages may experience the occasional bout of GERD.
What are the symptoms of GERD?
The hallmark symptom of GERD is heartburn. This burning sensation begins behind the breastbone and moves upward toward the neck and throat. Some people may feel as though food is returning to the mouth, causing an acidic or bitter taste. The burning and pressure may last up to two hours and is usually most painful after eating.
How can you relieve the symptoms of GERD?
The good news is that the person with GERD can probably find relief from GERD by modifying his or her diet and lifestyle, and by properly using over-the-counter medications. He or she might want to avoid foods such as chocolate; peppermint; coffee; spicy, fatty and fried foods; citrus fruits and juices; tomato products; and alcohol - all of which contribute to acid indigestion.
Since tobacco stimulates the production of stomach acid and weakens the muscle connecting the stomach and esophagus, quitting smoking might be a good idea. And if he or she is obese, losing weight may help relieve symptoms.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antacids can neutralize acid in the stomach and esophagus and provide temporary relief from the symptoms of GERD. OTC acid reducers can provide longer lasting relief, but if the person with GERD needs medications more than twice a week, he or she should see a doctor. Prescription medications are also available to treat the effects of heartburn and chronic reflux.
A small percentage of people with chronic GERD may require surgery, and the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus can lead to serious complications. GERD, however, is rarely a life-threatening condition, and most people can learn to control symptoms.