What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux , also called reflux, is when food and acid from the stomach go back up into the esophagus. This causes an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, often called heartburn.
With GER, reflux happens after nearly every meal and causes noticeable discomfort. After eating, people with GER feel a burning sensation in the chest, neck, and throat.
While it’s more common in adults, kids, teens, and even babies can have gastroesophageal reflux.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gerd
Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is described as a burning chest pain. It begins behind the breastbone and moves up to the neck and throat. It can last as long as 2 hours. It is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending over after a meal can also lead to heartburn.
Children younger than age 12 will often have different GERD symptoms. They will have a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing. They wont have classic heartburn.
Each child may have different symptoms. Common symptoms of GERD include:
- Burping or belching
- Having a rattling in the chest
- Having a sore throat in the morning
- Having a sour taste in the mouth
- Having bad breath
- Loss or decay of tooth enamel
GERD symptoms may seem like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
When Should I Call My Doctor About My Heartburn
Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, GERD, and Barretts esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.
You should contact your doctor if:
- Your heartburn wont go away.
- Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Its hard or hurts to swallow.
- Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
- You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
- You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks and you still have heartburn symptoms.
- You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription medicines.
- You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
- Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
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If You Or Your Child Has Trouble Swallowing
If you’ve had heartburn or acid reflux for so long that you have trouble swallowing, then it’s a sign that damage to the esophagus has been building for awhile. The esophagus may be inflamed, scarred or full of ulcers, indicating esophageal cancer. Other symptoms to be on the look out for include nausea and vomiting, particularly if you’re vomiting blood.
It’s important to note that children can suffer from heartburn and acid reflux as well. Unless you have an extremely advanced child, he or she probably won’t be able to put the discomfort into words, so take note if a baby experiences trouble swallowing. Other signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease in children are repeated regurgitation, asthmalike symptoms, frequent arching of the back and irritability after feedings. The good news? Many infants and children outgrow the condition, though don’t sit around and wait for them to do so: See a doctor.
Why Is Gerd Worse After Going To Bed
There are several explanations for why GERD is commonly worse at night after going to bed:
- When lying down, gravity no longer helps keep stomach acid down, making it easier for reflux to occur.
- Saliva can help neutralize stomach acid, but production of saliva is reduced during deeper stages of sleep.
A combination of these effects can facilitate the leakage of stomach acid into the esophagus and allow the acid to remain in place for longer, potentially causing more severe GERD symptoms, including those that can disturb sleep. The problem may be even greater if a person goes to bed soon after eating and/or eats foods that trigger GERD.
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What Causes Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is caused by weakness or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter . Normally this valve closes tightly after food enters your stomach. If it relaxes when it shouldnt, your stomach contents rise back up into the esophagus.
Stomach acids flow back up into the esophagus, causing reflux.
Factors that can lead to this include:
- Too much pressure on the abdomen. Some pregnant women experience heartburn almost daily because of this increased pressure.
- Particular types of food and eating habits.
- Medications that include medicines for asthma, high blood pressure and allergies as well as painkillers, sedatives and anti-depressants.
- A hiatal hernia. The upper part of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm, getting in the way of normal intake of food.
Signs You Should See The Doctor For Your Heartburn
There’s nothing pleasant about heartburn, which manifests itself as burning pain in the chest. Even a written description of why heartburn occurs is unpleasant: It happens when stomach acid is regurgitated back up through the upper body thanks to an esophageal sphincter not closing at the right time. To many of us, heartburn seems like just another unpleasant thing to endure, much like taxes, rush hour traffic and the contents of a baby’s diaper. For this reason, heartburn is often considered the Rodney Dangerfield of conditions, because it gets no respect. Most people don’t take it seriously enough to put down the over-the-counter medications and speak to their doctor about it. So when should you bite the bullet and make an appointment with your doctor?
Six Signs Your Heartburn Could Be Something More Serious
That burning, uncomfortable sensation in your chest? Itâs probably heartburn. Heartburn is a very common ailment that affects many people for many reasons. It occurs when digestive acid escapes the stomach and irritates the delicate lining of the esophagus.
Usually, itâs the result of eating certain foods, or simply overeating, and can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. But sometimes, heartburn is a symptom of bigger problems, that require other solutions. Hereâs when to call a doctor:
Prevention Of Gerd After Eating
- Avoid foods that trigger or worsen heartburn. While the more common foods associated with GERD have been mentioned above, some people may react to specific foods even though there is no scientific explanation for why these foods would lead to GERD.
- Do not drink alcohol before, during or immediately after meals. Wait a short period of time after eating and limit the intake of alcohol.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently instead of large meals. Overeating is often associated with having skipped meals as well as intoxication. By eating many smaller meals, overeating can be avoided.
- Do not eat too fast as it may increase air swallowing, hamper proper chewing and even lead to overeating. Meals should be consumed calmly during suitable times.
- Never lie down or sleep after a meal as it can trigger or worsen heartburn. Try not to eat for at least 2 hours before bedtime and avoid late night snacking.
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When Heartburn Becomes Acid Reflux
There is a fairly simple way to know if heartburn is caused by gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux. As Andrew Gawron, MD, a gastroenterologist with University of Utah Health puts it, The definition of gastroesophageal acid reflux disease is when reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus cause troublesome symptoms or complications that impact the quality of life.
In other words, if heartburn is frequent enough that it causes problems that make your quality of life diminished, you may have acid reflux disease. This might mean that youre unable to sleep at night because of pain, or you might go so far as to find that acid is eating away at the lining of the throat or esophagus. In some cases, GERD can also predispose someone to a pre-cancerous condition in the esophagus called Barretts esophagus.
Can Gerd Cause Asthma
We dont know the exact relationship between GERD and asthma. More than 75% of people with asthma have GERD. They are twice as likely to have GERD as people without asthma. GERD may make asthma symptoms worse, and asthma drugs may make GERD worse. But treating GERD often helps to relieve asthma symptoms.
The symptoms of GERD can injure the lining of the throat, airways and lungs, making breathing difficult and causing a persistent cough, which may suggest a link. Doctors mostly look at GERD as a cause of asthma if:
- Asthma begins in adulthood.
- Asthma symptoms get worse after a meal, exercise, at night and after lying down.
- Asthma doesnt get better with standard asthma treatments.
If you have asthma and GERD, your healthcare provider can help you find the best ways to handles both conditions the right medications and treatments that wont aggravate symptoms of either disease.
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What Exactly Is Heartburn Anyway
Heartburnor gastroesophageal reflux or acid refluxis a painful burning feeling in your chest or your throat, according to the US National Library of Medicine .
Basically, heartburn happens when your esophagus relaxes too much and stomach acid comes back up into your esophagus, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . It can be managed by making changes to your diet, like cutting back on coffee and alcohol, or through medications.
Having heartburn every once in a while, like after a spicy meal or taking a nap too soon after eating, is normal but if it occurs more than twice a week for more than a few weeks, it’s time to see a doctorin that case, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease , a chronic, sometimes damaging form of heartburn.
But GERD isn’t the only issue that is related to heartburn. Many other conditionssome even life-threateningcan mimic the feeling of heartburn. Here, nine other conditions that heartburn could be masquerading asand when to see your doctor about it.
What Are The Main Symptoms Of Gerd
The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.
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Serious Side Effects Of Heartburn
Even if its not a heart attack, heartburn can be serious. Dangerous side effects and complications can result if you dont seek treatment. Some common side effects include:
- Awaking from sleep, especially if youve eaten within two hours of going to bed
- Esophageal cancer: if Barretts esophagus is not treated
- Esophagus erosion: scarring, ulcers and narrowing of the tube
- Barretts esophagus: precancerous condition from chronic acid reflux
- Esophageal strictures and dysphagia: swallowing difficulties due to esophagus damage
Is There Surgery To Treat Gerd
GERD is usually controlled with medications and lifestyle changes . If these dont work, or if you cant take medications for an extended period, surgery may be a solution.
- Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is the standard surgical treatment. Its a minimally invasive procedure that fixes your acid reflux by creating a new valve mechanism at the bottom of your esophagus. The surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower portion of the esophagus. This reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter so food wont reflux back into the esophagus.
- LINX deviceimplantation is another minimally invasive surgery. A LINX device is a ring of tiny magnets that are strong enough to keep the junction between the stomach and esophagus closed to refluxing acid but weak enough to allow food to pass through.
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Foods That May Help Relieve Heartburn
While many foods can make your heartburn worse, there are several foods that may help relieve symptoms.
Here are some foods that may help relieve heartburn:
- Ginger: This is a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting. While there is limited evidence about gingers effects on heartburn, it may help reduce reflux (
- 41 ).
Summary While many foods can make your heartburn symptoms worse, there are plenty of foods that may ease heartburn symptoms. These include ginger, bananas and melons, veggies, oatmeal, grains and potatoes.
Treatment For Heartburn In Teenagers
Your doctor may suggest dietary modifications and lifestyle changes to reduce acid reflux. Chewing sugarless gums after eating and sleeping on the side or with an elevated head position may be useful in some teens. If conservative management fails to resolve heartburn, your teen will have to undergo pharmacological treatments.
Heartburn can be treated with medications depending on the causes. The following medications are used :
Almost all of the following drugs, except prokinetics are available OTC , one or two doses may be taken for acute relief. But a doctors advice should be sought if they are needed more than that not only because they have potential adverse effects but also because their abuse may mask the underlying condition which could be dangerous.
- Antacids:This medication neutralizes stomach acid, and it is available as Maalox, Alka-Seltzer, Riopan, Mylanta, etc. Seek a doctors advice for dosing since it may cause side effects such as constipation and diarrhea. Also prolonged consumption of antacids for symptom relief is not advisable and treatment of cause is needed to avoid long-term complications of acid reflux.
- H2 blockers: These drugs decrease the production of stomach acid. Cimetidine , ranitidine , or famotidine are H2 blockers.
- Proton pump inhibitors : These drugs also reduce stomach acid production. omeprazole , esomeprazole , and pantoprazole are a few examples of PPIs.
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Three Ways To Prevent Coffee Heartburn
All too often, I hear people say I cant drink coffee because it gives me heartburn! Yes, acid reflux is a real problem that many people experience after drinking coffee. However, not all coffee is created equal! Many people associate their heartburn problem with coffee as a whole, not realizing that there are very specific reasons that a particular brand of coffee causes it.
In fact, by following these 3 Ways to Prevent Coffee Heartburn its quite possible to drink coffee and be worry-free about heartburn and acid reflux.
Foods That May Cause Heartburn
Foods commonly known to be heartburn triggers cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and delay the digestive process, letting food sit in the stomach longer, says Gupta. The worst culprits? Foods that are high in fat, salt or spice such as:
- Fried food
- Carbonated beverages
âModeration is key since many people may not be able to or want to completely eliminate these foods,â says Gupta. âBut try to avoid eating problem foods late in the evening closer to bedtime, so theyâre not sitting in your stomach and then coming up your esophagus when you lay down at night. Itâs also a good idea to eat small frequent meals instead of bigger, heavier meals and avoid late-night dinners and bedtime snacks.â
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Causes Of Heartburn In Teenagers
Heartburn can be caused due to GERD, a condition in which acid from the stomach flows up to the esophagus due to weakness or other problems of the lower esophageal sphincter.
Heartburn may also often be caused due to the following factors besides GERD :
- Coffee or tea
- Soft drinks
If your teen has heartburn that is frequent, excessively painful, not related to dietary factors and despite exercising and adequate rest seek a doctors advice.
Signs And Symptoms Of Heartburn In Teens
The prominent symptoms of heartburn are burning sensation in the chest or throat and taste of acid or food in the mouth.
The following symptoms are often associated with heartburn :
- Sour taste
- Trouble in swallowing
- Sore throat
Your teen may experience heartburn while lying down or bending after eating. Although heartburn can be associated with a heart attack in adults, it may not apply to teens. This chest discomfort due to acid reflux can be alleviated with some over-the-counter antacids. However, if the problem persists, you may consult a doctor to identify the exact cause and treat it.
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How Are Gerd And Sleep Related
GERD is often cited as a cause of sleeping problems, including in the National Sleep Foundations 2001 Sleep in America Poll. In a more recent survey of people with frequent heartburn, nearly 60% said it affected their sleep, and more than 30% said it hurt their daytime functioning.
Flare ups of GERD symptoms after lying down can make it hard to fall asleep and can cause nighttime interruptions from heartburn, chest pain, and coughing. Studies in sleep clinics of people with GERD have found that these symptoms are correlated with lower sleep quality.
What Kinds Of Complications Are Caused By Frequent Heartburn
- Excess stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers, damage to the inner layers of the esophageal wall, and narrowing .
- Very rarely, the esophagus may bleed or tear completely because it is so damaged. In severe cases, a person may vomit blood or have small amounts of blood in bowel movements, found only on testing the stool.
- Regurgitated stomach acid can damage the respiratory tract, causing asthma, hoarseness, chronic cough, sore throat, or tooth damage . A person may feel as if he or she has a lump in the throat.
- If the acid exposure continues for long periods of time, the esophagus becomes thick and damaged. A person may then have difficulty swallowing and food becomes stuck.
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