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Facts About Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Updated on March 8, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

The esophagus connects the back of the mouth to the stomach. When stomach acid back up into the esophagus it will irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause other symptoms. When the stomach acid backs up into the esophagus frequently it causes mild, moderate or severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERDs).

The esophagus does not have a tough lining like the stomach. The symptoms due to GERD may be serious, particularly for senior citizens.

Normal Swallowing

There is a circular band of muscle at the end of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter - LES) that normally relaxes to allow food and liquids to flow into the stomach. Then, the sphincter closes again.

When the sphincter relaxes in an abnormal way or if it is weakened the stomach acid can flow up into the esophagus. This constant backwash of acid is what irritates the lining of the esophagus and it may cause inflammation.

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GERD’s Symptoms

If a person experiences mild acid reflux once or twice weekly they have mild GERDs, which can be treated by over-the-counter acid reflux medications. Moderate to severe GERDs occurs more frequently and may need a stronger medication and some lifestyle changes.

The symptoms of GERDs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burning sensation in the throat, chest or mid-abdomen (heartburn), typically occurs after eating
  • Regurgitation of food or a sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat

Other possible symptoms include:

  • A chronic cough
  • Laryngitis
  • Disrupted sleep
  • New or worsening asthma

Possible Complications of GERD

If you have GERDs over a period of time chronic inflammation may cause:

  • The narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal stricture), which is actually damage to the lower section of the esophagus near the stomach that causes the stomach acid to form scar tissue.
  • The scar tissue narrows the esophagus and can lead to swallowing problems - (esophageal ulcer) when stomach acid may wear away the esophageal lining and cause an open sore to form. An esophageal ulcer can bleed and cause pain plus it also makes swallowing difficult.
  • Precancerous changes may occur to the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus). The damage from the stomach acid may cause changes to the lining of the lower area of the esophagus. The changes are associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Heartburn, Acid Reflux, GERD-Mayo Clinic

Risk Factors for GERDs

Conditions increasing the risk of GERDs include:

  • Obesity
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia

Some factors that may worsen acid reflux include:

  • Eating certain foods (triggers), such as fried or fatty foods
  • Eating large meals or eating late at night
  • Smoking
  • Drinking some beverages, such as coffee or alcohol
  • Taking certain medications that irritate the stomach, such as aspirin

What Exactly is Barett’s Esophagus?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that Barett’s Esophagus is rare and typically occurs in men at an average age of fifty-five years of age. Having Barett’s esophagus puts you at a higher risk of developing esophagus cancer due to the esophagus lining damage. The risk factor for this disease include: obesity, smoking tobacco, and the intake of some foods that trigger the GERD symptoms.

Erosive Esophagitis

The inflammation and irritation from stomach acid may injure the esophagus over a period of time tp cause this condition. Men who are obese are at the highest risk for developing this disorder. Bleeding may occur with this disease. Any ulcerated area in the esophagus may cause long-term and severe bleeding. Bleeding is a serious disorder and medical attention is required.

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Esophageal Strictures

Esophageal strictures are a narrowing of the esophagus. If the esophagus becomes severely injured or inflamed due to stomach acid over time the result may be scarring and a narrow band-like stricture may be formed and they require treatment as the stricture can result in dysphagia (impaired swallowing).

Dental Disease

When stomach acid backs up into the mouth tooth enamel can become eroded. A person who has GERD is much more likely to have inflammation in their mouth, to have tooth loss and gum disease.

Asthma Flare-Ups

Asthma often occurs in people who have GERD. The acid reflux in the esophagus may trigger an immune response that makes the airways more irritable. When small amounts of acid are in the mouth they may be inhaled into the lungs. Ultimately, an asthma flare-up may occur that is more difficult to control.

Some asthma medications relax the LES, which make the GERD symptoms worse in some people. Additionally, people with GERD are at an increased risk for other respiratory or throat conditions.

Some of those possible conditions include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Hoarse voice and difficulty speaking
  • Granulomas, with inflamed pink bumps on the vocal cords
  • Aspiration pneumonia (recurs often and it is serious)
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a restrictive lung disease where lung scarring occurs
  • Sleep disorders
  • Constant throat clearing

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD): Treatments

Can the Damage be Reversed?

If you have mild symptoms the damage may be reversed by losing weight or quitting smoking, Staying upright following meals and eating smaller portions may also help reduce the symptoms.

In addition, there are some foods that can be avoided that may provide relief from this disease. Exclude these foods from the diet:

  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits
  • Caffeine
  • Coffee
  • Colas and other carbonated beverages
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Fried or fatty food
  • Spearmint
  • Tomato sauce

Milder cases of GERD may heal itself. There may be some lifestyle changes for others. Antacids may be necessary or prescriptions, such as histamine H2 receptor antagonists such as Pepcid. Prevacid or omeprazole are also commonly used.

Surgery is sometimes required and is an effective treatment for harder-to-control GERDs. If GERDs is under control there is less risk for further damage to the esophagus, teeth or throat.

In Conclusion

GERD is a disorder that is typically curable and does not affect your lifespan. It is a treatable disease in most cases. It is important to treat this disease early so you will not have long lasting effects.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    16 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rajan,

    Thank you so much for your very nice comments.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    16 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    A fine overview of GERD. It is imperative it is taken care of by following a lifestyle that controls it to make life easier. Thanks for sharing this article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    16 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi RoadMonkey,

    It is really sad when a young person has this problem.

    I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy.

  • RoadMonkey profile image

    RoadMonkey 

    16 months ago

    Very informative. My son in law's brother had this as a baby and was in and out of hospital with it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    16 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh,

    I am glad this article held information that was new for you. Your praise is appreciate and your comments always are appreciated.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh emge 

    16 months ago from Singapore

    The information you pass is unbelievable. It adds to my knowledge and I thank you for it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi James,

    You can certainly get GERDS as any age. I hope the article gives your son some new information.

    I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lora,

    A baby aspirin is sure better than warfarin because your GERD symptoms are gone. Losing weight and not drinking alcohol does help as well. There are definitely benefits to watching your diet.

    Thank you so much for your comments.

  • James A Watkins profile image

    James A Watkins 

    17 months ago from Chicago

    I appreciate this needful Hub. One of my sons has GERD and he just turned 30! I'll pass this along to him.

  • Lora Hollings profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    17 months ago

    This is an excellent article Pamela on GERD. When I was taken off warfarin and the doctor told me to take a baby aspirin every day, instead, to prevent DVT's, I was having mild to moderate GERD symptoms. When I stopped, then I noticed that I no longer had these symptoms. Losing weight and not drinking alcoholic beverages can also really help with this disorder. Changing our diets and lifestyles as you point out, can certainly help! Thanks for this great info.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Nell,

    I hope this information helps your brother. I am glad this was ood information for you. Your comments are appreciated.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    17 months ago from England

    Hi, after reading this I have a funny feeling it might be what is wrong with my brother! I will get him to read it and see. Great information, thanks

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Donna,

    I'm glad your GERD symptoms are under control. I appreciate your comments.

  • Donna-Rayne profile image

    Donna Rayne 

    17 months ago from Greenwood, Indiana

    Ms.Pamela, I used to have this really bad and had to have my doctor prescribe medication for it. Now, all I need for it is Mylanta because Tums doesn't help at all. I learned a lot from reading your excellent and informative article. Thank you very much!

    Have a wonderful day!

    Donna Rayne

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Vidya,

    I hope your heartburn and acid reflux will lessen with a different diet. I appreciate you reading this article and commenting.

  • vidsagster profile image

    VIDYA D SAGAR 

    17 months ago

    Hi Pamela, this is a very informative article. I often suffer from heartburn and sometimes from acid reflux also, and I resort to antacids to get relief. You have given some good tips on foods to avoid. I will surely try those out.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Venkatachari,

    I am glad that the article was of interest to you. I wish you good health for the future. Thank you for your comments.

  • Venkatachari M profile image

    Venkatachari M 

    17 months ago from Hyderabad, India

    A very useful article for knowing about the complications that arise from GERD and to be cautious in our lifestyles. I experience gas problems, but not that serious as I take care of my food always.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish,

    Since your mother has GERD I guess you inherited the disease.I'm sorry to hear you have such severe GERD and I hope you have a good doctor for treatment.

    I appreciate you reading the article and commenting.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    17 months ago from USA

    I have a lot of digestive issues, including significant GERD (stress made it so much worse). It resulted in Barrett’s esophagus with stricture. You would have thought I’d have been in a corner with my hand in a can of Crisco, but my mother has GERD problems real bad too. I pretty much just eat salads just to be sure.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Clive,

    If you don't use too much garlic you may be just fine. If the symptoms increase you may need to see your doctor. Thanks for commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Dr. Mehmood,

    I am glad this article was helpful to you and your comments are appreciated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Barbara,

    I hope you can control the symptoms with your diet. I have the same problem and the pills do have side effects. An over-the-counter antacid before a prescription might be a healthier choice if your symptoms increase.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • WannaB Writer profile image

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    17 months ago from Templeton, CA

    Thank you for this helpful information.I've had some of these symptoms more frequently than I would like. My doctor said I should take the infamous purple pill, but I am reluctant to do it because it also has unpleasant side effects. I mostly just try to watch what I eat. I'm also trying to cut down on bedtime snacking.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    17 months ago

    Another useful article about health issues. Thank you for posting.

  • Kulsum Mehmood profile image

    Dr Kulsum Mehmood 

    17 months ago from Nagpur, India

    Thanks Pamela for sharing ..... I myself am suffering from GERD and it is nice to have been enlightened on the subject .....

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    17 months ago from Jamaica

    i like garlic....i have some slight gerd

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby,

    I am glad the article is helpful for you. Thanks so much for your very nice comments.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    17 months ago from Southern Illinois

    Although I buy gluten-free pizza, I sometime am bothered with indigestion after eating it. Your article is written well and the layout is easy to understand. Thanks again...

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy,

    The peppermint and spearmint were surprising and I am not sure why they would be an irritant to the stomach. I may try to research some more also. Thank you for your comments.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    17 months ago from Houston, Texas

    Lifestyle is always a consideration when it comes to this disease as well as others. What surprised me on your list of items to avoid if a person suffers from GERD, was the spearmint and peppermint. The rest of the foods and drinks made sense. I wonder what it is about the mints that cause GERD? I'll have to look that up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Shauna,

    It is good that you have an easy remedy for your hearturn. I think your description of the discomfort is heartburn. I do the same thing as you as it doesn't happen too often. I should stay away from salsa with peppers as that does give me heartburn, but I really like it.

    Thank you for your comments, Shauna, and I hope you have a good week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill,

    I am glad the article provided some new information for you. Your comments are appreciated. :)

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    17 months ago from Central Florida

    Pamela, every now and then this happens to me. Usually in the form of pain at the end of my esophagus and/or sour fluid coming up into my throat. I've learned to pay attention to what foods trigger it and that has helped tremendously. When I do have symptoms, I either drink some almond milk or eat a few almonds and the the discomfort is immediately remedied.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    17 months ago from Olympia, WA

    All I know about this disease is it doesn't sound good. :) Funny how some diseases sound worse than others. But then you take cancer...not a particularly bad-sounding disease. Thank goodness I have your articles to clarify things for me. :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna,

    I think the trick is to get it treated early and then you will not have complications. I agree about lifestyle.

    I appreciate your comments, Lorna. Have a good week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda,

    I am like your husband I think as I love those 'special foods' and I get heartburn occasionally. I am glad you understand the article and I think you probably understand all of the articles. Thaks for your comments, Linda.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    17 months ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, you've explained this very well. Even I can understand it. Thankfully, I've never had stomach issues but my husband does, especially around the holidays. Of course, that's because of the "special" foods and beverages that show up between Christmas and New Years. (He never learns).

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    17 months ago

    Lifestyle is a big contributor when it comes to this disorder. I learned a lot from this article Pamela and it's good to know for the most part it is treatable. Very informative.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika,

    I think moderation in most everything is the key to better health. I am glad you read the article and commented.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Raymond,

    I am glad you found this information informative. Thank you for your comments.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    17 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    A change of diet can show better results to GERD. Informative of facts that I had learned more of from this hub. Everything eaten or drunk in moderation is key to a healthier lifestyle.

  • raymondphilippe profile image

    Raymond Philippe 

    17 months ago from The Netherlands

    This isn’t something to take lightly. Very informative!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria,

    I think preventing long term effects is so important. I agree that our society and the types of food we eat cause many of our health problems.

    Thanks for commenting as always. I hope you have a good week. Love and hug.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Cheryl.

    I am glad you found this article helpful. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi OLUSEGUN,

    I am glad you found this article educational. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric,

    I never heard of that cure but maybe your son is right even though it doesn't seem logical.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a good week, Eric.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    17 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Miebakagh,

    If you have no symptoms of GERD, then I don't think you have to worry about a little citrus or garlic. Thank you for your comments.

  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    17 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    Hello, Pamela, GERD is strange to me. But my life style and nutrition it seems is preventing me from being affect. Nonetheless, foods like garlic, citrus, and mims are part of my daily diet plate. Coffee twice a week but is not regular. Tea daily. Your story a reference point. Good day.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Our bodies are such a fun experiment. I had GERD pretty bad. My elder boy said the cure was easy. Of course I scoffed. He simply let out a sigh and said lemon water and ACV with the Mother.

    How ridiculous you pour acid down to relieve the acid?

    Well if it flares up, not for long.

  • OGUNDARE OLUSEGUN profile image

    OLUSEGUN 

    17 months ago from NIGERIA

    This is educative. It refreshes my memory.

  • Cheryl E Preston profile image

    Cheryl E Preston 

    17 months ago from Roanoke

    Thank you this is very detailed snd you answered some questions that I had. Much appreciated.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    17 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Pamela,

    Thanks for this comprehensive overview of GERD. You have shown that early detection and treatment can reduce/eliminate the possibility of long-term damage to several body systems.

    GERD seems to be a disease that reflects our fast-paced society - including ingesting too much fast and fatty foods.

    Have a peaceful evening.

    Love,

    Maria

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