If you suffer from chronic indigestion or heartburn, you may have a disorder called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, that affects nearly 30 million Americans. When left untreated, GERD can cause serious problems including ulcers and bleeding. And over time, the cells of the esophagus may change which may even lead to cancer. In addition, studies have shown that GERD may aggravate or even cause asthma, chronic cough and pulmonary disorders. If you do have GERD, taking over-the-counter remedies may mask the symptoms while damage to the esophagus worsens.
Other conditions can also cause the pain and discomfort associated with heartburn. These include a hiatal hernia, ulcers and a stricture, or narrowing, of the esophagus. The new Heartburn Treatment Center at South Florida Baptist Hospital offers the latest technology for the diagnosis of esophageal problems, along with a team of experts who work with you to help you control the symptoms and treat the condition.
What Is GERD?The esophagus is the tube that carries food into your stomach. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the bottom sphincter of the esophagus does not close properly, allowing some of the stomach's contents to leak back into the esophagus. When this happens, stomach acid used for digestion touches the esophagus and causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat. You may even taste this acid in the back of your mouth.
Know the Symptoms
While occasional heartburn or indigestion is normal, if it occurs more than twice a week you may have GERD.
- Persistent heartburn
- Acid regurgitation
- Pain in the chest
- Hoarseness in the morning
- Trouble swallowing, or a feeling of having food stuck in your throat
- A dry cough
- Bad breath
Since many of these symptoms can also be related to other conditions, it's important that you see a physician and have the appropriate tests to determine if GERD is the problem.
Start With Your Lifestyle And Diet
Once you've been diagnosed with GERD, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the incidence of reflux.
- Stop smoking
- Do not drink alcohol
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
- Eat small meals
- Avoid lying down for three hours after each meal
- Avoid foods than increase reflux including citrus, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, fatty and fried foods, spicy foods, garlic and onions, tomato-based foods
- Raise the head of your bed six to eight inches
Heartburn Treatment Center
South Florida Baptist Hospital