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Many of us have felt the common discomfort of indigestion or heartburn — signs and symptoms that the food you just ate does not agree with you. A little unpleasantness now and again is very common, but when the simple symptoms of heartburn occur more than once a week or are accompanied by a cough, sore throat, trouble swallowing, or regurgitation of stomach contents, it could be something that requires medical attention, such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
SMG Gastroenterologist, Dr. Tamir Ben-Menachem says, “Many people suffer from some form of acid reflux which can interfere with daily living, but it is possible to find relief through some lifestyle changes and if necessary, medical treatment.”
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, occurs when stomach acid enters up into the esophagus. The esophagus is sensitive to acid, causing symptoms of burning in the chest and sometimes regurgitation of fluid. This can happen when the muscle / sphincter between the esophagus and stomach is week or relaxes too often. This can also occur when there is a sizable hiatal hernia, or when the esophagus does not empty contents adequately.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic form of acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week. “While many people can experience heartburn and acid reflux on occasion related to something they ate, GERD is a persistent condition that is usually a result of an individual’s anatomy,” says Dr. Ben-Menachem. The chronic esophageal acid exposure due to GERD can cause worrisome changes of the esophagus such as ulcers, bleeding, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes Barrett’s esophagus, a potentially serious complication.
Acid Reflux/GERD Management
Although symptoms of acid reflux and GERD are disruptive, there are treatment options. If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. It is possible that you can find symptom relief by implementing some simple lifestyle changes like diet modification and refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol.
Diet Changes That May Help
For those suffering the uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux, paying close attention to one’s diet can be critical. Limiting or avoiding alcohol, coffee, chocolate, greasy foods, and peppermint will help reduce symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes That May Help
Wearing loose fitting clothing, avoiding tobacco, eating small meals rather than large ones, and not eating two hours before bedtime could also help to reduce symptoms.
“If diet and lifestyle changes aren’t doing the trick, medications are available, either prescription or over-the-counter,” says Dr. Ben-Menachem. “Talk to your doctor about which would serve you best. If you have heartburn or other symptoms of reflux more than once a week, please speak to your doctor as well. You may benefit from an endoscopic evaluation of your esophagus.”
Gastroenterologists at Summit Medical Group provide a depth of experience in treating GERD and other diseases of the esophagus. They are a premier referral center in New Jersey for management of esophageal strictures, ablation of Barrett's esophagus, and non-surgical removal of early esophageal cancers.