Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disorder that's caused by the abnormal flow of gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus.
Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus, and reflux means to flow back or return. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is the return of acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up into the esophagus.
GERD is very common in infants, though it can occur at any age. It's the most common cause of vomiting during infancy.
GERD is often the result of conditions that affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES, a muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus, opens to let food in and closes to keep food in the stomach. When this muscle relaxes too often or for too long, acid refluxes back into the esophagus, causing vomiting or heartburn.
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GERD can be treated with several types of over-the-counter or prescription medications. In many cases, medications may be used together to help treat your GERD. Your doctor will tell you which medication or medications is best for your symptoms.
Many over-the-counter antacids are available. These neutralize or weaken stomach acid. You don’t need a doctor’s prescription to buy them. You should take these antacids only when you need to, according to your doctor’s advice.
NOTE: Side effects may include constipation or diarrhea. If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor. Antacids can be high in sodium.
If antacids alone don’t work, your doctor may recommend stronger medications called H-2 blockers. These medications suppress most of the stomach’s acid production. Many of these medications are now available at a lower dosage without a doctor’s prescription.
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You know the feeling: a burning discomfort in your chest, rising up into your neck and throat. It may even leave behind a sour taste in your mouth. It's heartburn, something that more than 60 million Americans experience at least once a month. If you're one of them, there's good news: Making some simple lifestyle changes can help put out the fire. Avoid foods and beverages that can affect the lower esophageal sphincter action, including chocolate, peppermint, tomato sauce, citrus fruits and juices, carbonated drinks, and ketchup. Drink water instead of soda, and look for pasta dishes made with light, broth-type sauces instead of heavy tomato ones.
Learn more about living with heartburn and GERD ›