Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a painful condition in which stomach acid flows up the esophagus and into the mouth. Sometimes called dyspepsia, acid reflux, or heartburn, GERD can generate a fiery sensation in the chest and throat ranging from mild to severe.
GERD affects people of all ages regardless of gender or ethnicity. In the United States, approximately 20 percent of the population has GERD, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
GERD can cause difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, a sensation of a lump in the throat, or chest pain, says Aniqua A. Kohen, MD, a gastroenterologist at General Physician, PC, who sees patients in in Buffalo, North Buffalo, and Williamsville. Dr. Kohen says, “Some people experience intermittent symptoms of GERD, while others experience symptoms with every meal or in between meals.” She adds, “People with chronic reflux may also suffer from nighttime symptoms, such as disrupted sleep or chronic cough. GERD may also cause Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which tissue that is similar to the intestine replaces the tissue lining the esophagus.”
Dr. Kohen says that individuals with mild to moderate cases of reflux, can often rely on lifestyle changes and natural remedies noted below to prevent symptoms.
- Avoid food triggers. Certain foods and beverages, such as greasy or spicy recipes and alcoholic beverages, can make GERD symptoms strike. Acidic foods, chocolate, onions, carbonated beverages, and caffeinated beverages also may trigger GERD.
- Fast before bedtime. Avoid eating food and consuming beverages two to three hours before bedtime.
- Lose weight. According to the Center for Esophageal Motility Disorders at Vanderbilt University, obesity is the leading cause of GERD. Extra stomach fat puts pressure on the abdomen, pushing gastric acids into the esophagus. Losing weight can reduce this pressure.
- Eat small meals. Rather than eating a few big meals, eat small meals throughout the day.
- Try natural herbs. Some natural GERD remedies contain German chamomile, lemon balm, licorice, milk thistle, and angelica. Mealatonin, a supplement used as a sleep aide, has also been suggested to help relieve heartburn. However, it is always important to discuss these natural remedies with your physician prior to using them.
- Drink low-fat milk. Milk may temporarily buffer stomach acid, but high-fat milk may stimulate the stomach to produce more acid.
- Chew gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva, which can be an acid buffer, and also results in more swallowing, which can force acids out of the esophagus.
- Quit smoking. Some studies indicate nicotine relaxes the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter, the flap that blocks stomach acid from coming into the esophagus.
- Stay upright. Stay upright after eating a meal for at least three hours. In bed, sleep on a slight angle by raising the head of the bed a few inches.
GERD can be painful, but with a few changes, people can overcome this condition. To learn more, or to make an appointment with Dr. Kohen, call 716-626-2644 and visit https://www.gppconline.com/aniqa-a-kohen-md.