Living with Acid Reflux

Living with Acid Reflux

Discover Why Chronic Heartburn Should Not Be Left Untreated

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a chronic medical condition that is characterized by abnormal reflux of acid into the Oesophagus (food pipe) which causes discomfort and can lead to complications. Patients with GORD typically have symptoms of acid reflux that occur two or more times a week. GORD is caused by dysfunction of the valve that separates the Oesophagus from the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LOS).  


Symptoms of GORD vary between patients. The most common GORD symptom is heartburn, often described as a burning in the chest and upper abdomen that occurs after eating. Some patients may experience pain or difficulty with swallowing, and an acidic taste in the mouth.  Chronic acid reflux can also cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, accelerated tooth decay, hoarseness, sore throat, and chronic cough.  


Chronic untreated GORD can lead to complications, including inflammation or ulceration of the Oesophagus (Oesophagitis), esophageal narrowing (strictures), pre-cancerous changes (Barrett’s Oesophagus), and esophageal cancer.  


Patients with suspected GORD should be evaluated by a gastroenterologist. Testing for GORD often includes an upper endoscopy which allows the physician to ensure that there are no pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in the Oesophagus. Further testing may be indicated based on symptoms and response to treatment. Further testing may include testing acid levels in the Oesophagus (pH testing), and testing of the coordination and strength of the muscles lining the Oesophagus (esophageal manometry).


Medical treatment of GORD includes the use of antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s). There are certain risks with long-term PPI use and the decision regarding the type of medication to use. The duration of treatment should be guided by a gastroenterologist and individualized for each patient. Speak to your doctor if you suffer from heartburn or other GORD symptoms frequently. 


Lifestyle changes and diet modification can often reduce GORD symptoms. Patients should avoid overeating, avoid eating late at night, avoid or quit smoking, and lose weight if overweight.  Certain foods can worsen GORD symptoms. Greasy or fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages, chocolate, and peppermints should be avoided in patients with frequent heartburn.

This article is from Colorado Springs Living Well –