Most of us get heartburn from time to time. It may come as a burning sensation in the chest, or a bitter taste in the back of the throat. Heartburn is one word people use to describe reflux. It happens when stomach contents come back upwards. Reflux is sometimes painless: You may have trouble swallowing or get a dry cough, perhaps some wheezing.

Occasional reflux episodes are normal. Like millions of Americans, you can manage reflux by avoiding foods that don’t agree with you—things that are fatty, spicy or acidic—or by eating smaller meals. If reflux occurs less than once a week, you can usually cope by making lifestyle changes or using over-the-counter medications.

“We all have a little reflux when we burp or belch,” says Dr. John Pandolfino of Northwestern University. But of the 20 million or more Americans with reflux, about 5% have significant episodes 2 or 3 times per day. When severe events occur this often, it’s not ordinary reflux. It may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may need prescription medications to control it.

Surprisingly, there is very little data addressing sex differences in GERD--and perhaps this is one condition where sex differences only play a small role.  In the few studies that do exist, it appears that the overall incidence of heartburn, regurgitation, non-cardiac chest pain, and wheezing was the same in both sexes though there may be a higher intensity and frequency of symptoms in women but the clinical significance is not clear.   Heartburn is more prevalent during pregnancy and increases in each trimester but that  is believed to be due to anatomic changes such as the pressure of the expanding uterus or, possibility, something to do with progesterone level during pregnancy. It usually goes away after pregnancy.   Obesity and body mass index seems to increase the risk of GERD.

GERD should be taken seriously. Stomach (gastric) contents contain acid needed to digest food. In reflux, these contents wash upward into the esophagus, a slender tube connecting the mouth and the stomach. Because the lining of the esophagus isn’t meant to touch gastric acid, the acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus and lead to bleeding and scarring. In adults, GERD can raise the risk of cancer of the esophagus. And if you have asthma, GERD can make it worse.

As for babies, reflux is common in healthy infants. Most babies outgrow reflux by 13 months, but if they don’t, they too may have GERD.   GERD can harm a child’s ability to feed and grow. It can also increase the risk for inhaling stomach contents into the lungs which could be life-threatening.

People of any age can have GERD. Available medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription, can make the acid in the esophagus less intense. But medications don’t prevent GERD. Surgery can be an option if symptoms are severe and medicine and lifestyle changes don’t seem to help.  The problem isn’t that the stomach makes too much acid. In GERD, the special set of muscles between the esophagus and the stomach is weakened.  Scientists are beginning to look at how nerves receive and send messages to these muscles.

If you have reflux twice or more per week, talk to your health care provider. It’s best to start treatment early to prevent GERD from leading to more serious health problems.

How To Steer Clear of Reflux

Maintain a healthy weight.
Eat smaller meals.
Avoid triggering foods, including alcohol.
Don’t lie down for 3 hours after a meal.
Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting wood blocks under the bedposts.
For an infant, try burping frequently during feeding. Keep the infant upright for 30 minutes after feeding.
If you have reflux twice or more per week, see your health care provider.

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Comments

thank you very much for the tip about seeing a health care provider. im really trying to get my reflux under control!

I just found this website and have found it to be very interesting. A lot of great info from past blogs as well. Thanks

Thanks for sharing your findings on reflux and GERD. I was wondering if you found any differences based on ethnicity and also if there were specific foods one could consume to manage or perhaps permanently resolve reflux issues? Thanks for your help! FROM EDITOR: HERE ARE SOME FOODS TO AVOID Food Group Foods To Avoid Fruit • Orange juice • Lemon • Lemonade • Grapefruit juice • Cranberry juice • Tomato Vegetables • French fries • Onion, raw Meat • Ground beef, chuck • Marbled sirloin • Chicken nuggets • Buffalo wings Dairy • Sour cream • Milk shake • Ice cream • Cottage cheese, regular Grains • Macaroni and cheese • Spaghetti with sauce Beverages • Liquor • Wine • Coffee, decaffeinated or regular • Tea, decaffeinated or regular Fats / Oils • Salad dressing, creamy • Salad dressing, oil & vinegar Sweets / Desserts • Butter cookie, high-fat • Brownie • Chocolate • Doughnut • Corn chips • Potato chips, regular

A word of warning if you see your medical practitioner regarding acid reflux. The FDA put out a press release on May 25 2010 warning of some nasty side effects of taking acid reflux medications in high doses or over a long period of time. One of the problems is that acid reflux medications neutralize or block stomach acid production. Guess what... the stomach needs stomach acid to break down food and allow our body to absorb things like calcium. If you don't get enough calcium - this can lead to soft bones. There is a natural alternative. EDITOR's NOTE: Yes, there is concern about long term use. Make sure you keep your doctor in the loop if you are taking acid blockers long term.

Refreshing content on GERD/Acid Reflux. I battled this monster for years. I was so confused and sometimes didn't know whether to eat or not. Tried several medications and none help for a long time. It was when I started paying attention to what I ate that the needed relief came. I had always believed it was the level of acid in the stomach and the irritation that caused the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach to open. Great content. Thanks!

Just to add to the conversation....I own a small coffee shop and cannot tell you the number of people that have to give up coffee because of GERD...I would estimate that for every man that has to give it up two women have to give it up. It actually hurts business quite a bit but what can you do:) -Erin

Interesting article! I suffered from heartburn in pregnancy quite badly but don't seem to have had it since, it was so uncomfortable so I do feel sorry for those who do suffer with GERD.

Difficult to avoid the food groups that can irritate GERD but I suppose that little and less often is a good idea.

Excellent information! I found the site very easy to use, and the information just enough to send me out to do further research. Please keep up the good work

Hello, I am somebody who once had an ongoing battle with IBS and acid reflux. Seemed like I was 'out of commission' at least a couple times a week - this went on for a couple of years. The turning point came when I met a young lady from Japan at a Farmers Market. Turns out her family has been going green tea near Mt Fuji, Japan for over 600 years. She convinced me to try some of the green tea powder she was selling from her family's farm. I had never seen powdered green tea before but I was swayed by her conviction. Within a week ALL my symptoms of IBS and acid reflux disappeared. This addition of green tea has literally changed my life to the point where I'm also now sharing green tea's benefits with others at another Farmers Market. I DO have two key pieces of advice. #1) The vast majority of Green tea being sold in this country is produced by mass production methods by companies who have entered the green tea market just because its popular. The bottom line is that its either junk tea or its so old that its already lost 3/4's of it medicinal qualities! This not only includes the green tea at grocery stores but at the 'health' food stores as well. Take a little extra time and find a source of genuine and FRESH green tea. #2) Consider switching to green tea POWDER VS using loose leaf tea or tea bags. By drinking your green tea in POWDERED form you are consuming the WHOLE tea leaf and thereby 20%-30% more of the medicinal benefits green tea is famous for. Think about it: if you were to cook some green beans in water would you just drink the water - or consume the bean itself? Doesn't it just make sense to consume the whole tea leaf VS just drink the tea water? I hope this post helps someone overcome Acid Reflux or IBS like it has for me. GT also is famous for helping people in lots of other ways - Good Luck To All! Debbie

I never used to suffer from heartburn. Now as I get older I find I sometimes have to be careful of certain foods that give me heartburn. The strange thing is that it's only sometimes that these foods have an effect on me.

Hi, I also suffer from acid reflux symptoms. Mine is due to having a hiatus hernia which prevents the Lower esophageal sphincter (LES) from closing. This allows food to re-enter the esophagus. I take medication once a day which is great and prevents the acid reflux occurring throughout the day. I would just like to add a couple more things you can do to help prevent acid reflux occurring. Stop wearing tight clothing around the stomach area. Don't exercise straight after meals. Eat slowly and chew your food to aid digestion. Do not eat while lying down, hunched over, or moving around Stop Smoking: The chemicals in cigarette smoke reduce the muscle function of the LES, impairs the throat’s muscle reflexes, increases acid secretion, and decreases saliva production which helps to counteract acid. Hope this will help some people avoid heartburn.

Thanks for outlining the difference in men and women. I wasn't aware of that until I read your post!

General Advice for Heartburn Suuferers: Avoid foods that precipitate heartburn Avoid large meals Eat smaller meals more frequently Eat slowly Chew food properly Avoid lying down for 3 hours after eating Avoid going to bed for 3 hours after eating Let food and drinks cool before consumption Take care with alcoholic drinks Lose weight if overweight Wear loose fitting clothes around abdomen Stop smoking Sleep on your left side Elevate the head of the bed Take acid suppression medication before vigorous exercise

This is great information. Is there any way we can do to lessen the heartburn? Just curious about this. EDITOR's NOTE: check out this site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartburn.html

we should always monitor our food in order to avoid acid reflux

Thanks so much for posting this. I'm pregnant and I get heartburns quite often, and this really helped a lot with my questions.

I have been suffering with GERD for about 5 years. I gave all all the good things in life like coffee and alcohol. That helped,then I stopped eating before bedtime and that helped a little bit more. I now have the problem under control, but it still bothers me once in a while.

Weight can be a big contibutor to GERD. I used to suffer from it before losing weight

Anti-viral and Anti-bacterial. Tea catechins are strong antibacterial and antiviral agents which make them effective for treating everything from influenza to cancer. In some studies green tea has been shown to inhibit the spread of many diseases.

I use to experience severe heartburn after Beans consumption. Please should I do?? Should I stop consuming it or what. I'l appreciate your kind response(s), thanks.

I totally agree with all of these, and the most effective way to eliminate acid reflux is to follow a proper diet and if you focus on it, then your acid reflux will be eliminated.

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