When you eat, food travels down the esophagus to the stomach. The muscle between the esophagus and stomach lets food enter the stomach. When this muscle weakens, stomach acid flows into the esophagus. This causes a burning sensation, called heartburn.
Other causes of GERD include:
Interfere with food passing through the esophagus
Cause excess acid production
Possible genetic factor
These factors increase your chance of developing GERD. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Proton-pump inhibitors—to suppress acid production or reduce the chance of acid entering the esophagus (eg,
Medications that coat and protect the lining of the stomach (eg,
Medications that improve muscle tone in the lower esophageal sphincter (eg,
If symptoms are severe and you can't tolerate the medications, surgery may be an option.
The most common surgery for heartburn is
. The doctor wraps the stomach around the esophagus. This creates pressure on the muscle at the opening to the stomach. If you have a hiatal hernia, it can also be repaired at this time.
In some cases, the surgery can be done with smaller incisions, called
Endoscopic Antireflux Procedures
An advantage of endoscopic techniques is that they do not involve incisions in the skin. Instead, the doctor inserts a lighted device called an endoscope through the mouth and down the esophagus to reach the first part of the stomach. Through the endoscope, the doctor can perform one of a variety of procedures that decreases the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, including transoral incisionless fundoplication.
If surgery or endoscopy is successful, you may not need to take heartburn medications anymore. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.
Lifestyle changes can help prevent heartburn, including:
Sit up for 2-3 hours after eating.
Avoid wearing tight clothing.
Elevate the head of the bed.
Do not smoke.
Avoid drinking beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine.
Change your diet to avoid certain foods.
Chew sugarless gum for about 30 minutes after a meal. This will increase saliva flow, which can neutralize stomach acids in the esophagus.
Heartburn: hints on dealing with the discomfort.
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
Updated April 2008. Accessed July 1, 2008.
Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
. Updated May 2007. Accessed July 1, 2008.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a