What is GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a digestive disorder. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, but can present as cough, chest pain, poor dentition or even difficulty swallowing.

People experience heartburn when gastric acid from their stomach flows back up into their food pipe, which is also known as the esophagus. Typical heartburn can best be described as a burning chest pain that starts behind the breastbone and moves up to the neck and throat.  It can last from a few minutes to many hours.

The risk factors for GERD are many, and include pregnancy, obesity, smoking or having a hiatal hernia.  Aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs may also worsen GERD.

In addition to discomfort, even pain, heartburn can be a risk factor for more serious illness including Barrett’s esophagus, which can contribute to the development of esophageal cancer.

What can cause GERD?

  1. Being overweight
  2. Overeating
  3. Eating foods that contain citrus, chocolate, and are fatty or spicy
  4. Having caffeine
  5. Having alcohol
  6. Smoking

7 Things You Should Avoid Eating

Be careful what you eat and drink if you have heartburn.  These food items can  worsen GERD symptoms:

  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruit and juices
  • Tomato products
  • Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks

Treating GERD

The new GI Motility and GERD Therapy Laboratory in the Division of Gastroenterology at Saint Peter’s University Hospital facilitates the diagnosing and testing for complex heartburn and swallowing disorders using state of the art technology.  Evaluation of patients who have suspected disorders is important to diagnosing and prescribing individualized treatment, including minimally invasive procedures to treat conditions such as pre-cancerous Barret’s Esophagus.

Are you at risk for developing GERD?  Find out by taking our Saint Peter’s Better Health Library quiz.

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