Blog/Everything You Need to Know About Acid Reflux and GERD
10/9/2023 | 3 min read

Everything You Need to Know About Acid Reflux and GERD

Symptoms and Treatments for Relief

older woman experiencing heartburn symptoms with face scrunched up in pain

Today, we're diving into a topic that might make your stomach turn – we're talking about Acid Reflux and GERD. Yes, those pesky stomach issues that can turn a nice meal with friends into an unexpected fiery, burning sensation. While they are related, they do have different levels of intensity. So, let's break it down in a way that won't give you indigestion.

What's the deal with acid reflux and GERD?

Well, Acid Reflux and GERD are like the annoying cousins at the family gathering, causing discomfort when they show up uninvited. Here's what they are:

  • Acid reflux: Think of it as a sneak peek of GERD. It's when stomach acid splashes back up into your esophagus, often causing that familiar burning sensation known as heartburn. Ouch!

  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease): If Acid Reflux is a sneak peek, GERD is the whole movie. It's a chronic condition where stomach acid regularly irritates the lining of your esophagus. Not a blockbuster you want to watch!

Acid Reflux and GERD Red Flags

Now that we know the basics, let's talk about the symptoms. These little troublemakers can show up in various ways:

Acid reflux symptoms

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest, often after eating or when lying down. It's the hallmark symptom of acid reflux.

  • Regurgitation: The feeling of stomach contents, including acid, coming back up into the throat or mouth. It may taste sour or acidic.

  • Burping: Frequent burping or belching, especially after meals.

  • Dyspepsia: General discomfort in the upper abdomen, often described as a gnawing or burning sensation.

  • Bloating: Feeling full or bloated after eating, even if you've had a small meal.

  • Nausea: Occasional feelings of queasiness or even vomiting, typically related to acid backup.

  • Sore Throat: Irritation and discomfort in the throat, often due to acid exposure.

  • Chronic Cough: A persistent cough, sometimes described as a "heartburn cough," due to acid irritating the throat.

GERD symptoms:

  • Frequent Heartburn: Heartburn occurs two or more times per week and is a significant and consistent symptom.

  • Difficulty Swallowing: Known as dysphagia, this can feel like there's a lump in your throat or that food is getting stuck when you swallow.

  • Chronic Chest Pain: Chest pain or discomfort that may mimic a heart attack. It's usually not relieved by antacids.

  • Respiratory Problems: GERD can lead to respiratory issues like asthma, wheezing, or chronic cough that doesn't respond well to usual treatments.

  • Esophagitis: Inflammation and damage to the esophagus lining due to repeated exposure to stomach acid.

  • Barrett's Esophagus: A condition where the normal lining of the esophagus is replaced with tissue similar to that of the intestines. It's a precursor to esophageal cancer.

  • Esophageal Strictures: Narrowing of the esophagus due to repeated damage from stomach acid, leading to difficulty swallowing.

Treatments: taming the fire

Now, let's get to the good stuff – how to kick acid reflux and GERD to the curb!

Over-the-Counter (OTC) options:

  • Antacids: These are like the firefighters of heartburn. Tums, Rolaids and Maalox can quickly neutralize excess stomach acid.

  • H2 Blockers: Pepcid and Zantac are like the security guards of your stomach, blocking the acid-producing cells. Less acid, less heartburn – simple!

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Prilosec and Nexium are the heavy hitters. They reduce acid production to a trickle, giving your esophagus a break.

Prescription medications:

  • Prescription PPIs: When OTC meds aren’t cutting it, your doctor might prescribe stronger PPIs like Dexilant or Prevacid.

  • Prokinetics: These help your stomach empty faster, reducing the chances of acid sloshing up. Reglan is commonly prescribed.

  • Surgery: In extreme cases, when other treatments fail, your doctor might recommend surgery to reinforce the valve between your stomach and esophagus. But that's usually the last resort!

Prevention: keep heartburn at bay

Now, let's talk about prevention. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of heartburn!

  • Watch what you eat: Certain foods are notorious for triggering acid reflux, like spicy, fatty and acidic ones. Decreasing those foods and opting for a diet full of whole grains, lean proteins and veggies can help.

  • Eat smaller meals: Avoid the temptation to overindulge. Smaller, frequent meals keep your stomach from overflowing.

  • Stay upright: Don't lay down right after a meal – gravity can help keep stomach acid where it belongs.

  • Weight loss: Carrying extra weight can put pressure on your stomach, forcing acid up into your esophagus. 

  • Quit smoking: Smoking can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, making it easier for acid to sneak into the esophagus.

Remember, these conditions don't have to ruin your appetite or your day. With the right treatments and some lifestyle tweaks, you can put out the fire and enjoy your meals without fear of heartburn hijacking the party. So, raise your glass (of water) and toast to a heartburn-free life! Cheers to healthy eating and happier tummies!

How can Agile help with common conditions?

At Agile, we believe everyone should have access to excellent healthcare, regardless of where you are or when you need it. We offer convenient, virtual care across the U.S. for your most common medical conditions. Our network of providers are ready to address your unique concerns to deliver effective, personalized treatment in a timely manner. 

To tap into fast, cost-effective care now, schedule a consultation with one of our licensed clinicians!