FAQ about GERD

Answering your questions about GERD

What is the difference between heartburn, acid reflux and GERD?

Technically speaking, heartburn is the sensation you feel in your chest, having nothing to do with the heart, when stomach acid moves up from the stomach. It is often referred to as acid reflux and the two are used interchangeably, as acid reflux is when the stomach acid moves up the food pipe.

GERD, otherwise known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is when the heartburn or acid reflux becomes chronic, meaning that it is often occurring, sometimes in the case of more than two times a week.

Do I have heartburn or GERD?

Heartburn is often treated with over the counter medication such as antacids which neutralise the stomach, some examples of these can include:

  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Gaviscon
  • Pepto-Bismol

GERD is when the heartburn persists, such as over a period of two weeks when you have been treating it with over the counter medicine. If you experience the symptoms frequently and if you feel like they interfere with your everyday life. Should any of that occur, we suggest you get medical attention as you may have GERD.

How do PPIs work?

PPIs known as proton pump inhibitors are a type of very effective medicines used to treat heartburn and GERD, they are not always necessary but can help to ease the symptoms the you may be experiencing. Basically, what they do, is prevent the build-up of acid in the stomach. They are the most potent medicine in the prevention of acid secretion available.

What foods are bad for acid reflux?

Heartburn and acid reflux are easily avoided if you stay clear of the following foods that aid in the build-up of acid in the stomach. These foods are what you need to avoid in consume in moderation if you want to try and steer clear of acid reflux:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper – don’t forget that pepper adds spice to foods!
  • Garlic and onions
  • Butter and high-fat foods – try limiting fatty foods in your diet, these needs more acid to break them down
  • Peppermint – this may seem interesting, but in actual fact, peppermint aids in relaxing the sphincter which is the muscle or rather the valve between your food pipe and stomach, letting acids flow back freely into your food pipe.
  • Sugary foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Red meat
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Dairy – many people will tell you to drink milk to neutralise acid, unfortunately in some who do not tolerate lactose well, this may have the opposite effect.

What is acid indigestion?

Acid indigestion is sometimes just a fancy word for heartburn, although the symptoms of indigestion can often mean consulting with a medical professional, it refers to the burning sensation or discomfort of acid moving through your food pipe from your stomach. The feeling often comes from the middle of your chest. It can also be referred to as gastric reflux.

What exactly is GERD?

Chronic heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. To bring this into simple terms, when you start to suffer from acid reflux or heartburn on common occasions, your doctor will diagnose you with GERD.

How is GERD diagnosed?

The diagnosis of GERD is based on the following:

  • Your symptoms depicting the occurrence of frequent heartburn and other symptoms.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests are conducted using a device to measure for acid over 24 hours. An example of this is a flexible and thin catheter, or otherwise known as a tube which is inserted in your nose to get to your food pipe (oesophagus). This is then connected to a very small computer worn around your waist, it also has a strap going over your shoulder. This test picks up when your stomach sends acid into your food pipe and for how long.
    • Another way of doing this is conducting an endoscopy, using a thin instrument with a camera attached to the end of it, to examine your body from the inside. In this case, a detached probe is placed in your food pipe and passed through your stool, before this however, it transmits a signal to a small computer you are wearing to monitor your stomach movements.
    • However, your doctor may also conduct a general endoscopy (specifically gastroscopy also known as an upper GI scope or oesophageo gastro duodenoscopy) using a small camera to examine your insides. This routine procedure may require light sedation and day visit to the hospital.
  • X-rays of your upper digestive system, sometimes referred to an upper GI series or a barium swallow, involve drinking a liquid that fills your digestive tract allowing this to show up on your X-rays. Giving the doctor a silhouette of your food pipe and stomach.

Is GERD life-threatening?

Although GERD can rarely result in surgery, the chances of it being life threatening are minimal. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease may hinder your everyday life and activities, but with the understanding of it and the proper treatment, most people tend to find relief from the symptoms.

However, depending on the severity of the reflux, especially in instances where others may be suddenly woken up by the feeling of vomiting or regurgitation while sleeping, the stomach contents may enter the airway(aspiration) by mistake and cause the food to go into the lungs causing a form of pneumonia known as aspiration pneumonia. This requires urgent medical care.

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