Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Hiatal Hernia

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a serious condition associated with gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER is characterized by the opening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) causing stomach materials to rise up into the esophagus. This can also be attributed to the burning sensation in the back of the mouth or the fowl taste when stomach acid is forced up to the lining of the esophagus as wells as heartburn symptoms. This condition is common, but if these symptoms occur frequently, two or three days out of the week or for months at a time, it is considered to be a condition of GERD.

What causes GERD?

Problems with GERD occurs because there is a problem with the valve in the esophagus not closing completely causing stomach acid to travel back up into the esophagus. Patients with a hiatal hernia may have increased risks of developing GERD conditions.

Other factors may include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking

Foods can also be attributed to reflux symptoms and should be limited if symptoms are severe.

  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty (especially fried) foods
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spicy dishes
  • Tomato based - spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili, pizza

What are the symptoms of GERD?

  • Frequent heartburn (especially before bedtime)
  • Regurgitation/ belching
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain

What are the methods for diagnosing GERD?

GERD can be diagnosed by undergoing an endoscopy or an upper gastrointestinal series.

What are the treatment options for GERD? There are several treatment options that can be looked into for patients with GERD including both medications and lifestyle changes. Medications
  • Antacids will help to neutralize stomach acid
  • Foaming agents such as mucosal protective agents are given to protect the esophagus lining from deterioration
  • H2 Blockers (H2-receptor antagonists) will reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) will inhibit the final production step of stomach acid diluting the content of the fluid
  • Prokinetic agents or promotility agents can be used to empty the stomach faster to prevent acid from going back up the esophagus
Your doctor may also recommend some changes in your everyday lifestyle to prevent the occurrence and decrease the severity of the symptoms of reflux disease.
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid acidic foods
  • Weight loss
  • Decrease size of meals but increase how often you eat
  • Suggest different sleeping habits
  • Suggest different eating habits (as in the time of day)