Why you may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is not clear. What is clear is that GERD happens when the ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, that acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach (LES), relaxes while the rest of the esophagus is working.
The main symptom of GERD in adults is frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion. This symptom is a burning-type pain in the lower part of your mid-chest, behind the breast bone, and in the mid-abdomen.
Factors and foods that may contribute or worsen your GERD symptoms are:
- spicy foods
- citrus fruits
- mint flavorings
- fatty fried foods
- garlic and onions
- caffeine or alcohol
- tomato-based foods ~ spaghetti sauce, salsa, chilli, pizza
Some lifestyle changes you may want to try for GERD symptom relief are:
- lose weight if needed
- eat small, frequent meals
- wear loose-fitting clothes
- raise the head of your bed
- avoid lying down until 3 hours after a meal
- avoid foods and beverages that worsen symptoms
Over-the-counter antacids or medications that stop acid production or help the muscles that empty your stomach include:
- Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Riopan, are usually the first drugs recommended to relieve heartburn and other mild GERD symptoms.
- Calcium carbonate antacids, such as Tums, Titralac, and Alka-2, can also be a supplemental source of calcium, however, they are known to cause constipation.
- Foaming agents, such as Gaviscon, work by covering your stomach contents with foam to prevent reflux.
If you get heartburn after eating you may do well with taking both antacids and H2 blockers. The antacids work first to neutralize the acid in the stomach, and then the H2 blockers act on acid production. By the time the antacid stops working, the H2 blocker will have stopped acid production.
If your symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes or medications, then you may need tests taken. However, a completely accurate diagnostic test for GERD does not exist.
Chronic GERD that is left untreated can cause serious complications and you should be monitored closely by a physician. Studies have shown that GERD may worsen or contribute to:
Your health care provider is the best source of information about lifestyle changes, how to use medications, and what to do next for your GERD.
A hiatal hernia may also contribute to GERD.