Acid reflux and heartburn are the number one symptoms for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back into and irritates the lining of the esophagus.
- Burning sensation in the middle or upper sections of the chest (heartburn)
- Burning sensation in the throat (reflux)
Who is at risk?
One out of 10 people suffer from reflux or heartburn weekly. Chances for reflux are higher in:
- women who are pregnant
- people who are obese
Prolonged heartburn (or even severe heartburn) may cause damage to the esophagus and put you at risk for esophageal cancer.
Chronic reflux can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that affects the lower section of the esophagus and is caused by abnormal cell change in the esophageal walls. People who suffer from Barrett’s Esophagus are at greater risk for esophageal cancer.
Simple adjustments to what and how you eat you may decrease the discomfort associated with reflux and heartburn:
- Sit in an upright position after a meal
- Eat smaller meals
- Avoid acidic foods that trigger reflux
- Take over-the-counter antacids
To determine treatment, your doctor will start with an upper GI scan called an endoscopy.
What is an endoscopy?
While the patient is under sedation, the GI doctor guides a small camera to your stomach. Your doctor will biopsy any suspicious areas.
Lifestyle changes, watching what you eat, exercise, and certain over-the-counter medications can help alleviate reflux and heartburn. If you are pregnant or nursing, always consult your doctor before taking any medication, including over-the-counter drugs.
People with GERD, however, may need stronger medications or even surgery to alleviate symptoms.