Statistics show that “more than 60 million American adults experience heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million adults suffer daily from heartburn.”1  

This month is GERD awareness month, and while it isn’t a fancy name for heartburn, heartburn is a major symptom of this disease. We’d like to explain what it is and share some ways to help treat and prevent its symptoms.

What is GERD?

Fresh mint leaves
Cup of coffee

GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a digestive disorder that causes the contents of your stomach to move back into your esophagus.1

If you are familiar with acid reflux, another way to understand GERD is that it is a more severe and recurring form of acid reflux.  

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. With acid reflux, the heartburn may be brought on by certain foods or beverages. With GERD, the triggers are similar, but you may experience heartburn 2 or more times a week!2  

Some GERD triggers include: 

  • Chocolate 
  • Peppermint
  • Fried or fatty foods (this includes cheese and avocado) 
  • Coffee 
  • Alcoholic beverages 
  • Citrus fruits and juices 
  • Tomato products 
  • Peppers 

According to the Mayo clinic, additional symptoms, aside from heartburn, include “regurgitation of food or sour liquid [vomiting], difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain — especially while lying down at night.”2 

Grapefruit
Red peppers

Who Can Get It?

Anyone can develop GERD or experience varying degrees of its symptoms. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that you are more likely to experience GERD if: 

  • You are overweight, obese, or pregnant: This is because the extra pressure on your abdomen can cause the muscle that separates your esophagus from your stomach to relax or weaken. 
  • You take certain medications like: 
    • Asthma medication 
    • Calcium channel blockers 
    • Antihistamines 
    • Painkillers 
    • Sedatives 
    • Antidepressants 
  • You are a smoker, or you are exposed to secondhand smoke

Natural Remedies

Glass of Water with spoon of baking soda
Girl blowing bubble gum balloon

The Fisher-Titus Healthy Living Team, of the Fisher-Titus Medical Center, composed this list of 7 natural home remedies for GERD. You can view the full details about each remedy on their website here 

  1. Baking Soda: 1 tsp with 8 ounces of water to neutralize stomach acid 
  2. Chewing Gum: Chew sugar-free gum 30 minutes after eating 
  3. Don’t Lie Down After Eating: Eat 3-4 hours before you lie down 
  4. Eat Low or No-Acid Fruits: Fully ripened Bananas, Apples, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, and Watermelon 
  5. Ginger Tea: Consume before meals to prevent symptoms 
  6. Mustard: 1 tablespoon of mustard to ease symptoms 
  7. Chamomile Tea: 1 cup 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime 

Assortment of Low Acid Fruits
Cup of Chamomile Tea

Lifestyle Changes Can Help 

In addition to avoiding certain foods and beverages, lifestyle changes can help you mitigate the symptoms and avoid flareups.  

The Mayo Clinic suggests that affected individuals try: 

  • Losing excess weight 
  • Eating smaller meals 
  • Raising the head of the bed 
  • Avoiding tobacco 
  • Not wearing tight fitting clothes around the abdomen 

 Is There a Treatment for GERD? 

Many doctors will prescribe nutrition and lifestyle changes to treat GERD and that’s oftentimes enough for milder cases. Over-the-counter antacids are also commonly recommended.  

For more severe cases, doctors may go a step further and recommend prescription medications to help manage symptoms, order an endoscopy to look for irritation or inflammation in the esophageal tissue, or they may order an upper gastrointestinal x-ray to rule out other potential conditions.1  

If you have any concerns about your gastroesophageal health, talk to your doctor to get personalized information and the most accurate course of action for your unique situation.  

For our registered dietitian’s insights on spicy foods and what they do to your insides, check out her answer to this reader’s question on Hot Peppers! Or, take a look at her answer to this question on Inflammatory Foods and their effects on your GI tract. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources:

  1. “GERD: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Remedies for Relief.” Edited by Minesh Khatri MD, WebMD, 2019, www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1#1.

     

  2. Kashyap, Purna. “Acid Reflux and GERD: The Same Thing?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 July 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/expert-answers/heartburn-gerd/faq-20057894. 

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