The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

June 26, 2014

Speaking of Health: Acid reflux and GERD: Causes, symptoms and prevention

Here it comes again. The combination of buffalo wings and a tall beer may not have been the best idea. Then the acid reflux hits you. Acid reflux is the reverse flow of stomach acid into the esophagus — the tube that connects your throat to your stomach.

About 60 percent of adults will experience acid reflux at some point in the next year, according to Healthline, but a more severe type of reflux may be classified as gastroesophagaeal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can interfere with daily life and lead to additional — even life-threatening — problems with your esophagus.

Symptoms of GERD

• Acid reflux that occurs twice or more per week

• Frequent heartburn (burning in your chest), which may permeate your throat and be accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth

• Chest pain

• Trouble swallowing

• Sore throat and/or dry cough

If you experience these symptoms multiple times per week or feel that they are interfering with your life, consult your health care provider.

Risks of GERD

There are certain conditions that increase your risk of GERD, including:

• Asthma

• Connective tissue disorders

• Diabetes

• Pregnancy

• Obesity

• Smoking

• Excessive alcohol use

Unmanaged GERD can wear the esophagus down over the course of time and lead to the narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal ulcers and even precancerous conditions.

Preventing acid reflux and heartburn

Dealing with acid reflux and heartburn often helps reduce the chances of developing GERD. Some tactics you can implement are simple lifestyle changes while others are taking over-the-counter medications.

Lifestyle changes include:

• Staying away from “trigger” foods. There are common triggers — chocolate, fried foods, garlic, onion and others — but everyone has their own food sensitivities. Keep tabs on what causes you to have acid reflux and heartburn, and avoid those foods.

• Keeping meals small. Large meals tend to induce acid reflux and heartburn, so decrease the size of your meals to promote esophageal health.

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