You’re enjoying a delicious family dinner with good food and good conversation. You get up to gather the dishes after dessert, and a familiar burning sensation suddenly appears in your stomach, chest, and throat. Your mouth tastes sour. You painfully swallow the acidic taste and try to ignore the uncomfortable feeling in your stomach.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a chronic form of acid reflux disease that can affect your health and quality of life. Left untreated, it can damage your esophagus and weaken your tooth enamel. You may also begin to avoid social events, fearing a public GERD attack will ruin your outing. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce your symptoms and go back to living a healthy, normal life.
What is GERD?
GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux that occurs when stomach acid flows into the esophagus. It typically occurs after eating, and causes a burning sensation in the chest and stomach and sour taste in the mouth. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Common GERD Symptoms Include
- Chest pain
- Dry cough
- Sour taste in mouth
- Bad breath
- Damaged tooth enamel
- Difficulty swallowing
Who is at Risk?
- People who are overweight or obese
- People with hiatal hernias
- People who drink alcohol
- People taking medications that can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter such as: pain relievers, antidepressants, sedatives, antihistamines, and calcium channel blockers.
The Link Between Obesity and GERD
Being overweight or obese strongly increases your chance of developing GERD.1 Even a small amount of weight gain is linked to a greater risk of GERD. The cause is thought to be due to a larger amount of belly fat causing pressure on the stomach, and it can also be caused by hormonal changes that can occur in overweight individuals.
What You Can Do to Manage Your GERD Symptoms
Lose weight: Losing weight can significantly reduce GERD symptoms by decreasing the amount of belly fat.2 Depending on the amount of weight that needs to be lost, your weight loss options can include a combination of watching calorie intake, exercise, and weight loss surgery.3
Diet: If you need to lose weight to reduce your symptoms, adopting a healthy, lower calorie diet can be one of your weight loss options. There are also several foods that are known to trigger GERD symptoms, such as caffeine, carbonated drinks, alcohol, onions, garlic, chocolate, spicy foods, mint, tomato sauce, and high-fat foods.
Lifestyle: Consider eating smaller meals, avoiding clothes that are tight around your waist (because it will further increase pressure), and avoid lying down for at least three hours after eating.
Medication: There are several medications available to help treat symptoms of GERD. Your doctor may prescribe a medication or suggest an over-the-counter option. Speak to your doctor about your options and work with them to find the right medication for your needs.
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