GERD – or gastroesophageal reflux disease – is a common digestive disorder caused when gastric acid from your stomach flows back up into your food pipe or esophagus. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.
GERD happens when gastric acid from your stomach backs up into your food pipe or esophagus. Muscles at the bottom of the esophagus open and close to let food in and keep food in the stomach. When this muscle – called the LES or lower esophageal sphincter – relaxes too often or for too long, acid backs up into your esophagus. This causes painful and sometimes, debilitating, heartburn.
Common tests for patients with GERD symptoms include:
Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series, or a barium swallow. This test looks at the organs of the top part of your digestive system. It checks your food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). You will swallow a metallic fluid called barium. Barium coats the organs so that they can be seen on an X-ray.
Upper endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). This test looks at the lining or inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This test uses a thin, lighted tube, called an endoscope. The tube has a camera at one end. The tube is put into your mouth and throat. Then it goes into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Your healthcare provider can see the inside of these organs. He or she can also take a small tissue sample (biopsy) if needed.
Bernstein test. This test helps to see if your symptoms are caused by acid in your esophagus. The test is performed by dripping a mild acid through a tube placed in your esophagus.
Esophageal manometry. This test checks the strength of your esophagus muscles. It can see if you have any problems with backward flow of fluid (reflux) or swallowing. A small tube is put into your nostril, then down your throat and into your esophagus. The tube checks how much pressure your esophageal muscles make when they are at rest.
pH monitoring. This test checks the pH or acid level in your esophagus. A thin, plastic tube is placed into your nostril, down your throat, and into your esophagus. The tube has a sensor that measures pH level. The other end of the tube outside your body is attached to a small monitor that records your pH levels for 24 to 48 hours. During this time, you can go home and do your normal activities. You will need to keep a diary of any symptoms you feel, and also of the food you eat. Your pH readings are checked and compared to your activity for that time period.
Lifestyle issues often associated with GERD symptoms include:
You may be more at risk for GERD if you:
In many cases making diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce GERD symptoms. Always check with your healthcare provider before making any changes. If you have GERD, be careful about what you eat and drink. Limit the following:
Limit the following:
Fried and fatty foods
Citrus fruit and juices
Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks
Other tips include:
Eating smaller portions
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Wait a few hours after eating before you lie down or go to bed
Raise the head of your bed 6 inches by putting bricks or cinderblocks or bed risers under the bed legs under the head of the bed