Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.

Published May 30th, 2018

Dr. David Gremse, professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a pediatric gastroenterologist with USA Physicians Group, said gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.

This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.

When you swallow, Dr. Gremse said, the lower esophageal sphincter — a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of your esophagus — relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach. At the end of swallowing it will tighten up to hold the acid and food in the stomach where it belongs.

In people with GERD, the valve opens more frequently. When this valve opens, the contents of the stomach are more likely to come up into the chest portion of the esophagus, giving pain under or just below the breast bone.

Unlike the stomach, the lining of the esophagus cannot protect itself from acids. Thus, GERD can lead to esophageal erosions from acid damage. If untreated, it can lead to the formation of scar tissue, causing an esophageal stricture that can result in difficulty swallowing normal bites of food.

According to Dr. Gremse, the prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease is increasing. One factor that likely contributes to this increase is the obesity epidemic.

Implementing appropriate lifestyle modifications and using acid-suppressing medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can improve GERD symptoms in both children and adults.

In addition to heartburn, stomach aches, and upper digestive symptoms, there are also extraesophageal symptoms of acid reflux that can occur in children and adults. Acid reflux has been associated with asthma, sleep apnea, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, non-cardiac chest pain, atypical loss of dental enamel, hoarseness, chronic cough, and chronic laryngitis.

Dr. Gremse said nighttime awakening is also a common symptom of acid reflux. “When you’re up and around during the day, the acid has the chance to drain off the stomach,” he said. “But when you’re lying flat in bed at night you can get a buildup of acid in the stomach.” Patients with extraesophageal symptoms of GERD may need higher doses of PPIs and a longer duration of therapy.

Dr. Gremse said those suffering from acid reflux should consider the following lifestyle modifications along with acid suppression therapy:

  • Avoid large meals, especially prior to exercising
  • Do not eat or drink two hours prior to bedtime
  • If obese, consider a weight loss program to maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit foods and drinks that provoke GERD symptoms (caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, fatty foods, acidic foods, citrus juices, carbonated beverages)
  • Avoid cigarette smoke exposure and alcohol use

To request an appointment with a USA Health physician or specialist, click here to use our online form or contact our Patient Navigator at (251) 434-3711.

Recent News

Michael-chang
Message from leadership: Dr. Michael Chang

Quality, safety and patient-centered care make up the foundation of our commitment to our patients here at USA Health. We are embarking on an ongoing journey towards high reliability built upon a culture of safety.

Posted 12 hours agoRead Story >
Drug dropoff 1
Drop off old medications safely

A green receptacle off the main lobby next to a volunteer sign-in station is the spot to safely deposit out-of-date prescriptions, controlled substances, over-the-counter medications and veterinary drugs.

Posted 14 hours agoRead Story >
Dr. John V. Marymont and Owen Bailey
Message from leadership: Dr. John Marymont and Owen Bailey

Today we are launching USA Health Insider. Its genesis comes from what you told us through the employee engagement survey you participated in last fall – you want more information, especially information that helps you in your efforts to carry out the mission of USA Health.

Posted 4 days agoRead Story >
Back to News Listing
This link will open in a new tab or window.