Living with GERD: How to Manage Your Acid Reflux
Sometimes your body doesn’t always agree with what food you put in it.
For example, it is common to experience heartburn after eating certain foods. You may have even dealt with acid reflux before if you have had a burp that caused you to throw up in your mouth a little bit.
Almost everyone will experience heartburn or acid reflux in their lifetime. But if you are having these reactions often after you eat, it may be because you have GERD (or gastroesophageal reflux disease). Kimberly Tosch, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford Health System explains what GERD is, how it affects you and what to do about it.
“GERD is when the valve at the bottom of the esophagus allows stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus,” says Dr. Tosch. As a result, you might experience a burning pain in your chest shortly after eating. The acid in your stomach is why you might taste vomit in a burp after eating.
GERD is especially common among people with excess weight or women who are pregnant. The changes in your body can increase pressure on the abdomen, making it easier for stomach acid to get out of the esophagus.
“Fortunately, for people that have an abnormal amount of reflux throughout the day, there are medication and lifestyle modifications that can help,” reassures Dr. Tosch.
Treating and Preventing Acid Reflux
Talk to your doctor about your acid reflux. Your condition’s severity will depend on which treatment method is right for you. The doctor might suggest you:
- Try over-the-counter antacid medications (like Prilosec or Zantac)
- Eliminate foods and drinks that trigger your symptoms (see below)
- Avoid eating right before bed
- Prop your head up with a pillow when you sleep
To prevent acid reflux, Dr. Tosch offers some things to avoid:
- Acidic foods (like tomatoes or oranges)
- Spicy foods
- Food with higher levels of fat
- Excessive amounts of caffeine
The Dangers of Untreated GERD
As common as acid reflux is, it is important to know how to treat it and what could happen if you ignore the symptoms. Dr. Tosch warns that chronic, untreated GERD can cause serious complications.
Over time, recurring acid reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus. This inflammation condition is called esophagitis.
“In some cases, this chronic inflammation can permanently change the lining of the esophagus,” says Dr. Tosch. “This can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus, which puts you at an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.”
If you are experiencing acid reflux more than twice a week, see your doctor to determine if you have GERD. This way you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself against more serious medical conditions in the future.
To find a doctor or make an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Kimberly Tosch is a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Center – Lakeside.