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GERD information

What is GERD? The ring-like muscles of the lower esophagus that prevent foods you swallow from returning from the stomach back into the esophagus is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When your stomach is full, a tiny amount of food can sneak back into the esophagus when you swallow that is normal. But in people with GERD, substantial amounts of stomach acid and digestive juices flowback into the esophagus.

Heartburn and acid indigestion are the most common result. A burning pain is typical, and when it's accompanied by burping or bloating, it points to GERD as the cause. But there are hidden signs of GERD that are noticed in the lungs, mouth, and throat:

Gastro esophageal reflux

Mouth and throat symptoms

Lung symptoms


Poor function of the LES is responsible for most cases of GERD. A variety of substances can make the LES relax when it shouldn't, and others can irritate the esophagus, making the problem worse. Other conditions can simply put too much pressure on the LES. Some of the chief culprits in GERD are shown below.

Common causes of GERD symptoms



Other causes

Therapy: Lifestyle

Some people with GERD need to turn to medications to relieve symptoms and prevent possible long-term damage to the esophagus. But simple lifestyle modifications can control heartburn and other GERD symptoms. Here are eight tips:

  1. Do not smoke. It's the first rule of preventive medicine, and it's as important for GERD as for heart and lung disease.
  2. Avoid foods that trigger GERD (see Common causes of GERD symptoms, above).
  3. Consider your medications. If you are taking certain painkillers, antibiotics, or other medications that can irritate the esophagus or contribute to GERD, ask your doctor about alternatives, but don.t stop treatment on your own.
  4. Avoid large meals and try to be up and moving around for at least 30 minutes after eating. (It's a good time to help with the dishes.) Don't lie down for two hours after you eat, even if it means giving up that bedtime snack.
  5. Use gravity to keep the acid down in your stomach at night. Propping up your head with an extra pillow wont ' it. Instead, place four to six inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed. A simpler (and very effective) approach is to sleep on a large, wedge-shaped pillow. Your bedding store may not carry one, but many maternity shops will, since GERD is so common during pregnancy. And because GERD is also so common in general, you won't be the only man or woman looking for a pillow in a maternity shop.
  6. Chew gum, which will stimulate acid-neutralizing saliva.
  7. Lose weight.
  8. Avoid tight belts and waistbands.
  9. Use apple cider Vinegra at night

For more information on digestive disorders, order our Special Health Report, The Sensitive Gut, at CIDPUSA..