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  • Michael Sparks, MD

GERD - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by frequent and persistent heartburn, regurgitation, and other symptoms caused by the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Let's discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments of GERD to help you better understand this condition and how to manage it!

Symptoms of GERD: The most common symptoms include:

  • Heartburn: a burning sensation in the chest that often occurs after eating

  • Regurgitation: the sensation of acid backing up into the throat or mouth

  • Chest pain: a burning or tightness in the chest

  • Difficulty swallowing: the sensation of food sticking in the throat

  • Hoarseness: a change in the voice due to acid reflux into the voice box

  • Coughing: especially at night

  • Bad breath: caused by the reflux of stomach contents into the mouth

Causes of GERD: The causes of GERD are complex and multifactorial. Some of the most common factors that contribute to the development of GERD include:

  • Lifestyle factors: such as overeating, eating large meals, eating before bedtime, and lying down soon after eating

  • Obesity: excess weight puts pressure on the stomach and can force acid into the esophagus

  • Pregnancy: hormonal changes and increased pressure on the stomach can cause GERD symptoms

  • Smoking: nicotine relaxes the muscle that keeps stomach acid in the stomach, allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus

  • Hiatal hernia: a condition in which the upper part of the stomach bulges into the chest through a weak spot in the diaphragm

  • Certain medications: such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some muscle relaxers

Treatments for GERD Treatment for GERD depends on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Lifestyle modifications include:

  • Losing weight

  • Avoiding triggers like caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, food with high fat content, carbonated beverages, and peppermint

  • Eating smaller meals and avoiding eating two-three hours prior to bedtime

  • Elevated the head of your bed

  • Promotion of salivation through oral lozenges/chewing gum to neutralize refluxed acid and increase the rate of esophageal acid clearance

  • Avoidance of tobacco and alcohol

Medication options include over-the-counter antacids like Tums which can neutralize stomach acid and provide temporary relief. In more severe cases, prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole or H2 receptor blockers like Pepcid (famotidine) can be prescribed to reduce the production of stomach acid. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct a hiatal hernia or to strengthen the muscle that keeps stomach acid in the stomach.

Have additional questions? If you are a current patient, send Dr. Sparks a text! Not a patient? SparksMD Family Medicine is Sanford's Direct Primary Care Clinic, helping to restore the patient-physician relationship. We believe in price-transparent, affordable, concierge style primary care. For one low monthly membership, you get your doctor's cell phone number, less waiting, same day visits, and steep discounts on medications, labs, and imaging amongst other awesome benefits. Send Dr. Sparks an email directly for more information!



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