Many Americans experience a condition known as heartburn. Over 40% of Americans suffer from heartburn at least once per month. Many of those that suffer can link heartburn to a specific food or drink, such as tomato sauce, spicy foods, or even alcoholic beverages. Frequent heartburn can be an indicator of a slightly different condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). While heartburn can be a nuisance, heartburn as it relates to GERD is a problem that requires medical care and intervention.
Every year, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) has GERD Awareness Week. Highlighting the disease not only helps patients who have already been diagnosed but can help those that suffer from GERD and may not even know it yet. For example, some types of reflux can even mimic fall allergies, causing you to take the incorrect form of treatment. Read on to learn about GERD symptoms and if you should get your heartburn symptoms checked out.
Symptoms of GERD
There are several different types of GERD and reflux, and many are associated with a heartburn-type disorder. Those without GERD may partake in spicy foods, experience heartburn, take an antacid, and that is the end of the problem. Those who have GERD have common symptoms that linger, and these symptoms may not be reactive to over-the-counter medications like antacids with calcium. GERD occurs when acid from the stomach makes its way up into the esophagus.
While that is often a common cause of heartburn, the difference with GERD is that it happens continually. Also, repeat exposure to stomach acid can damage the tissues and lining of the esophagus, causing permanent discomfort and pain. Common GERD treatments include lifestyle changes, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and other types of antacids.
Common GERD symptoms include:
- Burning sensation in the chest, worsening at night or immediately after eating
- Chest pain
- Feeling of a “lump” in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
However, there is another type of GERD known as “silent reflux” that may be similar to the beginning of a cold or fall allergies. Symptoms of silent reflux include post-nasal drip and a “scratchy” feeling in the throat, as well as laryngitis. The cause of silent reflux is the same–stomach acid finding its way up into the esophagus–however, it is the symptoms that are different. Some patients suffer from both types of reflux.
Visiting Your Doctor
If you have nagging heartburn that won’t go away, or “fall allergies” that aren’t getting any better even after you take OTC allergy medication, an appointment with your gastroenterologist may be in order. A good way to test to see if you’re experiencing “silent reflux” is to try a two-week elimination diet. Remove alcohol, dairy products, coffee, spicy foods, fried foods, tomato-based foods, cucumbers, and juices from your diet. Also remove everything that “comes from a can.” If you find that your symptoms get better, you may be suffering from silent reflux.
GERD Awareness Week
In 2018, GERD Awareness Week is the week of November 18 through 24, the week of Thanksgiving. This is a great time to promote awareness, during holiday festivities where people often may overeat or overdrink, exacerbating the symptoms of GERD. If you think you may suffer from GERD or silent reflux, book an appointment today with Dr. Sameer Islam, MD. Offering treatment for all types of GI problems, Dr. Islam provides the best in care.