Heartburn is a very common symptom created by acid reflux, a condition where some of the stomach contents, including stomach acid, are forced back up into the esophagus, creating a burning pain in the lower chest. Persistent acid reflux that happens more than twice a week results in the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). According to estimates from the American College of Gastroenterology, at least 15 million Americans experience heartburn – the symptom of acid reflux – every day.
Most people are occasionally affected by heartburn, which is rarely a significant cause for concern. Recurrent acid reflux, however, resulting in the diagnosis of GERD can have serious consequences for health.
GERD is seen in people of all ages, and the cause is often attributable to a lifestyle factor, but it can also be due to unavoidable factors such as anatomical abnormalities affecting the valve at the top of the stomach. Changes to lifestyle or behavior can prevent or improve heartburn symptoms.
The American Gastroenterological Association offers the following list of things to try to see if symptoms resolve:
- Avoid food, drinks, and medicines that you find to be associated with heartburn irritation
- Eat smaller meals
- Do not lie down for two to three hours after a meal
- Lose weight if overweight or obese
- Avoid increased pressure on your abdomen, such as from tight belts or doing sit-ups
- Stop smoking
It is important to address persistent problems with gastroesophageal reflux disease as long-term untreated acid reflux can lead to serious complications including an increased risk of cancer.
- The following foods aggravate acid reflux, and should be avoided:
- fatty or fried foods
- peppermint and spearmint
- whole milk
- creamed foods or soups
- most fast foods
- citrus fruits and juices (grapefruit, orange, pineapple, tomato)
- coffee (regular and decaffeinated)
- caffeinated soft drinks
- other caffeinated beverages
- Spicy or acidic foods may not be tolerated by some individuals
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If you suffer from GERD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Tsuda. He can help you find the right treatment for your unique case.