Acid reflux every now and then, especially after a large meal, is normal. But chronic acid reflux, where you feel symptoms two or three times per week for several weeks, may likely be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

While GERD can emerge in people of all ages, it’s most common in people over the age of 40. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 20% of people in the United States have GERD. GERD typically causes heartburn, difficulty with swallowing and sleeping, acid regurgitation, or pain in the chest.

GERD is caused by a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES) or upper esophageal sphincter (UES). The sphincters are the ring-shaped muscles responsible for the opening and closing of contractions for proper digestive functioning. If they are too relaxed or weak, it allows the stomach acid to flow back up to the esophagus and into the mouth. Additional risk factors for GERD include: 

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain health conditions, including asthma or hiatal hernia
  • Taking certain medications, like asthma drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, painkillers (ibuprofen like Advil, Motrin IB and aspirin) and sedatives
  • Lifestyle factors, including eating certain foods (tomato-based products, citrus, spicy food), eating too close to bedtime, or smoking

Typically, the first line of treatment for GERD includes antacids and changes to your diet and lifestyle – such as eating smaller meals, not eating near bedtime, and elevating the head-end while sleeping.

However, if you are experiencing recurring GERD symptoms, it is important to speak with your physician about these issues. The gastroenterologists with MemorialCare Medical Group are experts in diagnosing and treating GERD, and can help you find relief for your symptoms. At the time of your appointment, we will get a complete family and medical history and then may perform tests, including barium swallows, manometry (measuring pressure in the esophagus), or an endoscopic exam of the esophagus and stomach.

Find a gastroenterologist near you using our online tool.