GERD (Adult)

Front view of man showing respiratory and upper digestive anatomy.The esophagus is a tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. A valve (the LES, lower esophageal sphincter) at the lower end of the esophagus prevents stomach acid from flowing upward. When this valve doesn't work properly, stomach contents may repeatedly flow back up (reflux) into the esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can irritate the esophagus. It can cause problems with pain, swallowing or breathing. In severe cases, GERD can cause recurrent pneumonia (from aspiration or breathing in particles) or other serious problems.

Symptoms of reflux include burning, pressure or sharp pain in the upper abdomen or mid to lower chest. The pain can spread to the neck, back, or shoulder. There may be belching, an acid taste in the back of the throat, chronic cough, or sore throat, or hoarseness. GERD symptoms often occur during the day after a big meal. They can also occur at night when lying down. 

Home care

Lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms. If needed, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines. Symptoms often improve with treatment, but if treatment is stopped, the symptoms often return after a few months. So most persons with GERD will need to continue treatment or get treatment on and off.

Lifestyle changes

  • Limit or avoid fatty, fried, and spicy foods, as well as coffee, chocolate, mint, and foods with high acid content such as tomatoes and citrus fruit and juices (orange, grapefruit, lemon).

  • Don’t eat large meals, especially at night. Frequent, smaller meals are best. Don't lie down right after eating. And don’t eat anything 3 hours before going to bed.

  • Don't drink alcohol or smoke. As much as possible, stay away from second hand smoke.

  • If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce symptoms. 

  • Don't wear tight clothing around your stomach area.

  • If your symptoms occur during sleep, use a foam wedge to elevate your upper body (not just your head.) Or, place 4" blocks under the head of your bed. Or use 2 bed risers under your bedframe.

Medicines

If needed, medicines can help relieve the symptoms of GERD and prevent damage to the esophagus. Discuss a medicine plan with your healthcare provider. This may include one or more of the following medicines:

  • Antacids to help neutralize the normal acids in your stomach.

  • Acid blockers (Histamine or H2 blockers) to decrease acid production.

  • Acid inhibitors (proton pump inhibitors PPIs) to decrease acid production in a different way than the blockers. They may work better, but can take a little longer to take effect.

Take an antacid 30 to 60 minutes after eating and at bedtime, but not at the same time as an acid blocker.
Try not to take medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin. If you are taking aspirin for your heart or other medical reasons, talk to your healthcare provider about stopping it.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised by our staff.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Stomach pain gets worse or moves to the lower right abdomen (appendix area)

  • Chest pain appears or gets worse, or spreads to the back, neck, shoulder, or arm

  • An over-the-counter trial of medicine doesn't relieve your symptoms

  • Weight loss that can't be explained

  • Trouble or pain swallowing

  • Frequent vomiting (can’t keep down liquids)

  • Blood in the stool or vomit (red or black in color)

  • Feeling weak or dizzy

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

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