Usually, when you swallow your food, a sphincter muscle tightens so the food will not flow back into your throat. But in some people, this muscle may relax after a meal. When you lie down, the food mixed with acid may spill into your throat and cause burning. Other symptoms may include chest pain, a dry cough, nausea, vomiting, hoarseness or a dry throat, difficulty swallowing or feeling like a lump in your throat. In extreme cases, teeth erosion may also occur.1
Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, asthma, diabetes, and delayed stomach emptying increase the risk of GERD.
What can you do? There are over-the-counter medications available to help relieve the symptoms. Talk to your doctor to find out which ones work the best for you. If the condition is severe, your doctor may recommend other treatments.
What You Can Do to Prevent Symptoms
In the meantime, maintaining a healthy weight could help minimize or eliminate the symptoms. Wear loose clothing to keep from agitating your stomach and esophagus. Eat smaller meals, and don’t lie down after eating. Sometimes, bending over can cause symptoms.
Avoid spicy and high-fatty foods because they may irritate the esophagus. Fried foods, tomato sauce, garlic, caffeinated beverages, chocolate, and mint are some common foods that irritate the esophagus. If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smoke can help keep the sphincter from doing its job.2
GERD sufferers sometimes find relief by using herbs and other natural therapies. Licorice, slippery elm, chamomile, peppermint, and ginger have been recommended, but the research is not vital for these remedies. Probiotics have also been suggested to help reduce discomfort. Eating yogurt and other dairy products that contain helpful bacteria, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and L. acidophilus, may also bring relief.
If you are a GERD sufferer, don’t get discouraged. GERD is treatable, and some remedies can help relieve symptoms.
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Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.
1 Marian MJ, Williams-Mullen P, & Bowers JM. (2007) Integrating Therapeutic and Complementary Nutrition. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
2 GERD. Mayo Clinic.com Reprints. www.mayoclinic.com/health/gerd/DS00967/METHOD=print. Accessed December 30, 2011.