Aug 1 2007
Are you suffering from heartburn? Heartburn can be a symptom of a serious problem called "gastroesophageal reflux disease," also known as GERD.
If left untreated, persistent GERD could lead to serious health consequences. The American College of Gastroenterology has compiled some helpful tips to sharpen your knowledge of GERD and what you can do to help relieve the symptoms.
- Heartburn is caused by the regurgitation or reflux of gastric fluid/contents into the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the mouth and the stomach.
- More than 60 million Americans experience symptoms of heartburn at least once a month.
- Symptoms of GERD include:
- heartburn (burning chest pain)
- regurgitation of bitter or sour liquid
- difficulty swallowing (feeling that food is stuck)
- excessive clearing of the throat
- Heartburn can often be eliminated by avoiding:
- heavy lifting, straining
- chocolate, peppermint
- tomato sauces (spaghetti & pizza)
- fatty or spicy food
- lying down after a meal
- tight-fitting clothes
- certain medications
- eating 2-3 hrs before sleep
- Smoking and the use of alcoholic beverages reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (muscle between the esophagus and the stomach) permitting reflux to occur.
- Pregnancy can increase the risk of GERD symptoms.
- If left untreated, heartburn sufferers with persistent symptoms can experience severe complications such as esophageal strictures, Barrett's Esophagus (pre-cancerous condition), or, in some cases, esophageal cancer.
- If you suffer infrequent heartburn, antacids, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may provide the relief you need.
- Persistent symptoms of heartburn and reflux should not be ignored. You should see a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Heartburn two or more times a week
- Don't get lasting relief from medication
- Difficulty swallowing, especially solid foods
- Choking, wheezing, hoarseness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic or recurrent GERD symptoms for more than one year
To learn more about GERD and heartburn, visit the ACG website at http://www.acg.gi.org
About the American College of Gastroenterology
Founded in 1932, the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) is an organization with an international membership of more than 10,000 individuals from 80 countries. The College is committed to serving the clinically oriented digestive disease specialist through its emphasis on scholarly practice, teaching and research. The mission of the College is to serve the evolving needs of physicians in the delivery of high quality, scientifically sound, humanistic, ethical, and cost-effective health care to gastroenterology patients.