Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. Stomach acid that touches the lining of your esophagus can cause heartburn, also called acid indigestion
Doctors also refer to GER as acid reflux.
You may be able to control GERD by:
- not eating or drinking items that may cause GER, such as greasy or spicy foods and alcoholic drinks
- not overeating
- not eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
- losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
GERD affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population. Anyone can develop GERD, some for unknown reasons. You are more likely to have GERD if you are overweight, obese, taking certain medications, smoke regularly or are exposed to second hand smoke.
GERD occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes due to certain things, such as increased pressure on your abdomen from being overweight, obese, or pregnant, certain medications, smoking or inhaling second hand smoke.
If you have gastroesophageal reflux (GER), you may taste food or stomach acid in the back of your mouth.
The most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is regular heartburn, a painful, burning feeling in the middle of your chest, behind your breastbone, and in the middle of your abdomen. Not all adults with GERD have heartburn.
Other common GERD symptoms include:
- bad breath
- pain in your chest or the upper part of your abdomen
- problems swallowing or painful swallowing
- respiratory problems
In most cases, your doctor diagnoses gastroesophageal reflux (GER) by reviewing your symptoms and medical history. If your symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes and medications, you may need testing.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, or a combination.
Making lifestyle changes can reduce your GER and GERD symptoms. You should:
- lose weight, if needed.
- wear loose-fitting clothing around your abdomen. Tight clothing can squeeze your stomach area and push acid up into your esophagus.
- stay upright for 3 hours after meals. Avoid reclining and slouching when sitting.
- sleep on a slight angle. Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by safely putting blocks under the bedposts. Just using extra pillows will not help.
- quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your GERD symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes or medicines. You’re more likely to develop complications from surgery than from medicines.