When Heartburn From Your Favorite Meal Doesn't Go Away

A little heartburn won't stop many people from enjoying their favorite meal, especially around holidays or special occasions. But when that heartburn continues after eating a few antacid tablets, it's time to get checked out for something more serious. Health Line says that nearly 60 percent of Americans will have some form of heartburn during the year. For a few people, it recurs weekly. This can be the sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Learn about how GERD may be affecting your life and putting restrictions on your dining experiences.

GERD is More Than Heartburn

A small muscle acts as a valve at the opening of your stomach where the esophagus enters it. This valve opens to allow food to enter the stomach and closes to prevent stomach acid from coming back up into the esophagus. GERD occurs when that valve doesn't work properly and the acid repeatedly makes its way into the esophagus, and even up into your throat. In severe cases the valve often doesn't close which allows the acid to escape from the stomach whenever your eat.

The Symptoms of GERD

The primary symptom is heartburn. This pain is from the damage being done to your esophagus by the stomach acid. The tissue lining the esophagus is eaten away by the acid. The muscular valve can also be damaged further, resulting in more serious GERD episodes in the future. Certain foods can trigger GERD symptoms including:

  • chocolate
  • peppermint
  • pepper
  • tomatoes
  • citrus fruits
  • fried foods
  • fatty foods
  • alcohol
  • coffee and tea

The pain is often worse when lying down. Sitting or standing relieves some of the pain. Antacids may temporarily relieve the pain. But after a full meal, the pain may return and can last several hours.

Treatment of GERD

If you suspect you are having GERD symptoms, contact a general physician at a center like Mount Laurel Primary Care Physicians for an examination. Untreated GERD will get worse, resulting in esophageal ulcers and bleeding. The tissue in your esophagus will scar, making it difficult to swallow. Severe cases of GERD can increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

Diet control and lifestyle changes are the first steps in treating GERD. Identity the foods that cause you pain and avoid them. Eat smaller portions at mealtime and eat several hours before you go to bed. When in bed, sleep on your left side or elevate your back and head slightly. This prevents some of the acid from entering the esophagus.

Non-prescription medications will give you temporary relief. Your doctor can prescribe more aggressive antacids to stop excess stomach acid production.

Your doctor will order a series of x-rays to determine the extent of damage and to see if an ulcer is present. They may order an endoscopy to look into the esophagus to make a better assessment of the damage. In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the muscular valve.

If you frequently have to rush to find a bottle of antacid tablets after your favorite meals, get in touch with your doctor for an evaluation. Get your GERD treated so you can continue to enjoy those fine dining experiences.