Understanding GERD: More than just holiday heartburn
In the midst of the holidays, those heavy meals can lead to discomfort. Learn how to distinguish occasional heartburn from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
This time of year, we all love enjoying our favorite holiday meals and treats. From decadent drinks to oversize meals and the large dessert table, the holiday season can trigger that unwelcome burning sensation in your chest: heartburn. Occasional heartburn, though it may be uncomfortable, is common and does not require any treatment, but if heartburn occurs more than twice a week, it may be time to call your physician.
During the holidays, we are often exposed to not only larger servings of food but rich, fatty foods. It can be a slippery slope to indigestion, but there are some things you can do to help avoid the holiday heartburn:
- Know the foods that irritate your stomach and trigger heartburn and avoid them. Chocolate, citrus juices, onions, tomatoes, soft drinks, coffee and alcohol tend to cause heartburn.
- Eat smaller meals more often and savor small bites.
- Take a walk after meals – this helps food digest which prevents heartburn
- Wear comfortable clothes – tight clothing, including belts, can push stomach acid up into your esophagus
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is more than just sporadic episodes of heartburn. GERD causes stomach contents (food or liquid) to leak backwards into the esophagus, causing heartburn and regurgitation, and it can affect up to forty percent of the U.S. population at some point in their lifetime. Anyone, including infants, children, and pregnant women, can have GERD.
As far as who is at risk, family history and other health conditions may put you at higher risk. Males tend to be at higher risk for GERD, as well as those with a family history of gastrointestinal symptoms. Obesity can increase the risk of GERD up to six times. Smoking, pregnancy, scleroderma, hiatal hernia and excessive alcohol consumption are also risk factors.
GERD is often diagnosed based upon symptoms and response to anti-reflux medication. Yet, symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose GERD, so testing is required for conclusive diagnosis. If you have a diagnosis of GERD based upon symptoms, take proton pump inhibitors and still have reflux symptoms, it may be time to talk to your gastroenterologist about a reflux test. TriStar Horizon offers an innovative testing system that provides accurate information, so we can provide a tailored therapy to your needs.
If you’re concerned you may have GERDS, speak to your primary care or reach out to a gastroenterologist.
Mohsen Hasanin, MD is a gastroenterologist at TriStar Horizon Medical Center.
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