Heartburn (GERD)

Written by eHealth Navigator

What is Heartburn / GERD?

Heartburn / Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which is the muscle connecting the esophagus with the stomach. Many people, including pregnant women, suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD.   More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once per month, and 25 million adults suffer daily from heartburn.  Doctors believe that some people suffer from GERD due to a condition called hiatal hernia. 

What triggers heartburn?

Heartburn occurs most commonly after eating a large meal.  Foods high in fat tend to remain in you r stomach longer, causing your stomach to produce more acid.  This overproduction of acid irritates your digestive system.  Lying down also makes digestion difficult, making heartburn more likely.  To help prevent this you should allow two hours to digest before bedtime.

In addition, alcohol, spicy foods, chocolate, citrus fruits, coffee, caffeinated drinks, peppermint, and tomatoes can trigger heartburn.

What are heartburn symptoms?

Among the most common symptoms of heartburn are chest discomfort and a burning sensation in the throat or chest.  See a doctor if you experience these symptoms.  Your doctor may perform various tests to determine the severity of your problem.

What are the treatment options for heartburn?

In most cases, heartburn can be relieved through diet and lifestyle changes; however, some people may require medication or surgery. 

Modification of the types and quantity of the foods you eat can help reduce the frequency of heartburn.  For occasional heartburn try an over the counter medication such as antacids (ie. Tums & Rolaids). 

If you suffer from frequent heartburn two or more times per week, you may benefit from a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).  The gastric acid pumps found in the stomach produce stomach acid.  Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) block these pumps to inhibit acid production at its source.  PPIs are sold both over the counter and by prescription (ie Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex & Prilosec).

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 March 2014 11:35AM