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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Facts

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

A Diagram of the Digestive System

A Diagram of the Digestive System

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where food, fluids or acid from the stomach enters the esophagus through the esophageal sphincter. GERD is due to frequent acid reflux. Untreated GERD may result in a serious disorder.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a circular band of muscle located at the end of your esophagus. It relaxes when it is working properly so that it opens when you swallow and tightens back up afterward. Acid reflux occurs when the LES does not open and close properly, then acid reflux happens. It allows digestive juices and stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus. If this occurs over twice weekly, you have GERD.

GERD may also be referred to as:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Acid indigestion
  • Acid regurgitation
  • Reflux

Most people do not seek medical attention for GERD, but worldwide percentages include:

  • 18% of North America
  • 9% to 26% of Europe
  • 3% to 8% of East Asia
  • 12% of Australia
  • 23% of South America

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm, which is the large muscle that separates the abdomen and the chest. There are typically no symptoms or it may be referred to as heartburn or associated with abdominal discomfort. Hiatal hernias may not require any treatment. However, sometimes medications or even a surgical repair is necessary. This occurs most of the time in people over age fifty.

Diagram of a Hiatal Hernia

Diagram of a Hiatal Hernia

Signs and Symptoms of GERD

The symptoms of GERD are very specific and they include:

  • Heartburn - burning sensation in your chest, typically after eating
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • A sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Nighttime Acid reflux may include chronic cough, laryngitis, disrupted sleep land new or worse asthma

Infant GERD

Approximately two-thirds of four month old babies have some symptoms of GERD. At a year of age only ten percent of infants have symptoms and all symptoms are usually gone by eighteen months. If a baby has symptoms past twenty four months, discuss it with your baby’s doctor or pediatrician.

The symptoms may vary but they include:

  • Difficulty or trouble swallowing, refusal to eat
  • Spitting up and vomiting
  • Wet burps or hiccups
  • Irritability during or after feeding
  • Gagging or choking
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Abnormal arching of the back after feeding
  • Frequent coughing or recurrent pneumonia
  • Disturbed sleep
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More GERD Facts

There are some conditions that can increase your risk of GERD, and they include:

  • Obesity
  • Bulging at the top of the stomach into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
  • Asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Delayed stomach emptying

There are several factors that aggravate acid reflux, such as smoking, particular foods or beverages, some medications or eating a large meal near bedtime.

Some foods that are considered triggers for acid reflux include:

  • Spicy Foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruit and pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Onion and garlic
  • Alcohol, coffee and soda
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) -aspirin, ibuprofen
GERD diagram

GERD diagram

Complications of GERD

Chronic inflammation in your esophagus from GERD over time can cause:

  • Open sores in the esophagus (ulcer) from stomach acid, which may bleed and cause difficulty in swallowing
  • Esophagus narrowing or stricture, thus difficult in swallowing
  • Precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus) from the stomach acid that changes the lower esophagus tissue lining
  • Tooth enamel erosion, gum disease
  • Asthma, chronic cough or other breathing problems that is caused by breathing stomach acid into your lungs

GERD Diagnosis

If you have acid reflux more than twice weekly and other symptoms see your physician. The doctor will do a physical exam and the doctor will probably order some of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis. These tests include:

  • Barium swallow - you will drink a barium solution, then x-ray imaging is used to view you upper digestive tract
  • Upper endoscopy - a tiny camera is attached to a flexible tube that is threaded into your esophagus to view your esophagus and do a biopsy if needed
  • Esophageal manometry - a flexible tube is threaded into your esophagus to measure the strength of your esophageal muscles
  • Esophageal pH monitoring - a monitor is inserted to learn if and when stomach acid enters into the esophagus

GERD Treatments

Physicians may ask you to make dietary changes, to quit smoking or lose weight. Over-the-counter antacid medications, such as antacids may help. The physician may prescribe H2 receptor blockers, such as:

  • H2 receptor blockers Nizatidine (Axid AR), Pepcid AC, Tagamet or Tagamet HB
  • Proton Pump inhibitors are stronger acid inhibitors that allow time for healing of damaged esophageal (Prevacid 24 HR), omeprazole - Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC

Homeopathic Herbs

Eating a healthy diet, losing weight and using some herbs to reduce symptoms may be the most effective way to treat GERD.

  • chamomile
  • licorice root
  • marshmallow root
  • slippery elm


Typically, medications and some lifestyle changes will probably prevent the symptoms of GERD. Surgery is sometimes needed to repair gastric polyps, which are abnormal growths. They are usually harmless but cancer is a possibility.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

Hi Flourish,

I am sorry to hear you have all these ailments. I am sure you are seeing doctors more than you ever hoped. LOL Thanks so much for sharing your experience and for your comments.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 25, 2020:

Ugh I have this including Barrett’s esophagus, stricture, and a related condition I think, a neuroendocrine tumor in the stomach. No fun at all especially with the increased cancer risk.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

Hi Abby,

I am glad to hear you don't have this ailment. I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a nice weekend.

Abby Slutsky from America on September 25, 2020:

Thanks for sharing. Fortunately, this is not n ailment I have, but it is always nice to get additionl knowledge.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

Hi Peg,

I am sorry to hear about your husband having Barrett's Syndrome and the fact that you have symptoms.

I think the way food is grown could be part of it and the way we prepare so many foods could also be a part. I think about generations back where many grew their own food, working hard to do so and many lived a long time. Maybe that was better.

Thank you for your generous comments.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 25, 2020:

It is alarming that so many people suffer from this disease. Wondering if it has something to do with the way our food is grown and manufactured? And all the extreme spices, sugary drinks, etc..

My hubby was diagnosed with Barrett's Syndrome a couple of years ago after ongoing bouts with GERD symptoms. He now has routine endoscopy appointments. I'm having the same symptoms lately as well. Time for an exam, but then, COVID.

I believe you're right to address the root causes rather than the prescription medication used to combat the symptoms. Thanks for another well-researched and well-presented article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

Hi Raymond.

That is a very nice comment you wrote. I very much appreciate it.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on September 25, 2020:

Once again, I am impressed by the accuracy with which you describe a medical condition. Thank you for that.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

Hi Devika,

I am glad you learned some new information. Thanks your your generous comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 25, 2020:

I heard of Gerd but had not much of an idea of how to prevent it and of the causes. This is important and well put together. Your insightful hub states the facts of GERD and I am glad to have found it. The hub makes a difference to those who had no idea of GERD as I have learned lots from you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 24, 2020:

Hi Liz,

That is my husband's view exactly and I understand it. As long as the prevacid has it under control why not enjoy foods you like. Thanks, Liz, I appreciate the correction as I just didn't get it at first. Stay safe and healthy!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 24, 2020:

I wasn't clear, I guess; the prevacid actually had it under control, but prior to being on it, the foods seemed irrelevant. It would happen no matter what I did or didn't eat or drink. So I decided I wasn't going to eliminate foods or beverages I enjoy if it didn't make a difference.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 24, 2020:

Hi Venkatachari,

I am glad you found this article to be informative. Thank you for your cmments.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on September 24, 2020:

Very informative and useful article.

Thanks for sharing this great knowledge.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 24, 2020:

Hi Lorna,

I am glad you found this article interesting. I have been told by many people that chamomile helps them. Thank you for your generous comments.Stay safe and healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 24, 2020:

Hi Linda,

Yes, it can be uncomfortable. Thank you for your very nice comments. Stay.

Lorna Lamon on September 24, 2020:

Many people suffer with this condition and I'm glad to see that their are ways it can be relieved, as it can be quite a painful condition. I drink a lot of chamomile tea which has so many benefits, including aiding digestion. Great article Pamela full of interesting facts and guidance.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 23, 2020:

Acid reflux and GERD can be very unpleasant. Thanks for creating another informative article, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Cheryl,

I agree that it is not fun. I appreciate your comments.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 23, 2020:

Thanks for this informative article. GERD is no fun.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Liz,

I hope you can figure out which foods are causing these symptoms. You would think the Prqacid would cure the problem but since it hasn't I would see if there is something in your diet you might eliminate or find a homeopathic herb to stop those awful symptoms. They are so frustrating. I appreciate you sharing your experience and commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Rosina,

I agree that using homeopathic herbs to treat this problem is always the best way to treat any disease.

Thank you so much for your excellent comments.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 23, 2020:

I had a problem with nighttime GERD for a year or so, a couple of times a week. I finally saw my doctor, and he diagnosed GERD, and put me on Prevacid. (I take the generic.) He said that could explain my chronic cough, even when GERD symptoms are not present.

I also have a problem with post nasal drip from my hay fever, which also can cause coughing. These diagnoses are of long standing, and belive me, it is no fun these days to get a coughing fit out in public! Boy, do you ever get the evil eye from everyone in the vicinity.

And the signs on businesses telling you "do not enter if you have a cough" (among other listed symptoms)...Sorry, but I am not ill, and I'm going in! I hate it!

Rosina S Khan on September 23, 2020:

I like the most effective way to treat GERD by using Homeopathic Herbs along with eating diet and losing weight. Thank you, Pamela for a fruitful and helpful article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I am glad to hear you do not have these symptoms. Ideally a person makes good lifestyle changes. I appreciate your comments.

I hope you and your husband are doing well as I have heard about the vast amount of rain in Houston.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Shauna,

I did not know that unsalted almonds would provide relief. I know the medications are not ideal. Thank you so much for sharing that information. It is much appreciated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Kalpana,

I am glad you found this to be an informative article. Thank you for your comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2020:

Although I enjoy eating spicy foods, I have rarely had any symptoms of GERD. It is good to know that some diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on this disorder.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 23, 2020:

Pamela, when I have heartburn I eat a few raw, unsalted almonds. They provide immediate relief without using chemicals or drugs. I keep almonds on my nightstand, in my desk at work, and in my purse.

Antacids and GERD medications have harmful substances in them. Go natural. Try the almonds. They really do work!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I agree that the human body is very complicated. I think the pictures are so important to help explain what I write about these various diseases. It is a shamer your father-in-law had such a problem.

Pregnancy can sure cause some stomach problems, whether it is heartburn or morning sickness. I appreciate your comments, Linda. Stay healthy and safe.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 23, 2020:

Pamela, thankfully, the only time I've experienced heartburn was when I was pregnant with my second child. My poor father-in-law had a Hiatal hernia and would suffer for hours after eating with the feeling that food was stuck in his throat (he was not a happy person). Thank you for explaining this problem. The diagrams are very enlightening. The human body certainly is complicated, isn't it?

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Ankita,

I guess most of us get heartburn every once in a while when we eat something very spicy, etc. Thank you for your comments.

Ankita B on September 23, 2020:

I sometimes have heartburn but that happens after every few weeks. Thank you for sharing this informative article.

Kalpana Iyer from India on September 23, 2020:

Informative! Thank you for the info.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Mel,

What you have is nothing to be concerned about as it has has happened so rarely. I think the nose cn happen as everything has some connection. I am glad you found this to be an interesting article and your comments are appreciated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Bill,

GERD is heartburn that happens frequently. I'm glad to give you interesting articles to read. :)

I appreciate your comments.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 23, 2020:

This backup has happened to me once or twice, but in my life, not weekly. Should I be concerned? The flow seems to be felt more in my nose than in my throat. I know that's a little graphic.

Very informative article.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 23, 2020:

This is a new one to me, Pamela. Never heard of it in my lifetime. Thanks for broadening my education in a way I can understand.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

Hi Eric,

I don't like that list of food to avoid, and chocolate? LOL Thanks so much for your comments as I relate to them so well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 23, 2020:

Thank you for this I needed it. I get it but the simple changes you suggest here work. What was I thinking, a large meal within an hour of bedtime? My favorite was spaghetti with tomatoes and garlic. Of course citrus was in there. Oh well, live and learn.

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