Acid reflux disease, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition where corrosive stomach acid gets into the lower part of the esophagus and causes heartburn and damage to the esophageal tissue over time. Most people experience heartburn due to acid reflux on an occasional basis, but GERD involves frequent acid reflux due to the sphincter muscle between the lower esophagus and upper stomach not closing properly. Symptoms of GERD, like painful heartburn, can be managed and damage to the esophageal tissue can be reduced with lifestyle changes and medications.
There are some things that a person can do to reduce the frequency of acid reflux in gastroesophageal reflux disease. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and eating more slowly can reduce the chances that acid reflux will occur. Lying down after eating a meal can increase the chances of acid reflux. It may also be helpful to elevate the head of your bed approximately 6 inches so that you are not lying completely horizontally; this can be accomplished by placing wood blocks or bricks underneath the bed or by using a wedge-shaped pillow underneath the mattress. Clothing that fits too tightly around the abdomen can actually increase the chances of acid reflux and heartburn, so it is helpful to wear clothing that is not too constricting. Smoking cigarettes also increases the chances of acid reflux. If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce the occurrence of acid reflux.
There are foods that are more likely to cause acid reflux than others. Not everyone has the same acid reflux triggers, but common trigger foods include fried foods, high-acidity foods like tomato sauce, alcohol, caffeine, onion and garlic. Reduce your consumption of foods that you know will trigger symptoms of heartburn.
Taking antacids is useful for immediate relief of heartburn symptoms. However, if you have acid reflux disease, antacids are not enough to prevent damage to the esophageal tissue. People with frequent heartburn should talk to their doctor. Prescription medications that reduce stomach acid work on a longer-term basis and help to protect the esophagus instead of treating symptoms from acid reflux that has already occurred. Some cases of GERD may require surgery to help strengthen the sphincter muscle to the lower esophagus, but most cases of acid reflux disease can be managed through medications and lifestyle changes.