Heartburn is one of those things we seem to just deal with. A quick trip to the pharmacy will yield an abundance of over the counter fixes to that problem. But when are quick fixes not really fixes at all?


Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, is the medical term for heartburn which is caused by acid from the stomach rising into the esophagus. The acid irritates the lining of the esophagus which results in burning, chest pain, a feeling like something is stuck in the throat and difficulty swallowing. GERD is more common in people who are overweight, smokers, and those diagnosed with a hernia or asthma. If you feel like you may have GERD or if you have GERD but you do not feel like your symptoms are well controlled it is time to talk with a doctor.


Annually GERD Awareness Week is the week of Thanksgiving. Often people feel like GERD is no big deal and do not seek advice from a physician, but the truth is untreated reflux can lead to bigger issues like esophageal ulcers and even cancer. During the holidays we tend to do things that exacerbate heartburn symptoms such as eating large meals, eating right before bed, drinking more alcohol and even smoking so your symptoms might feel worse.


Taking over the counter medications for GERD is fine for immediate relief, but you should know when to consider talking with a doctor. If you have heartburn more than once a week or if over the counter medications do not control your symptoms, you should seek advice from a gastroenterologist. You may require a prescription to control acid production in your stomach or further testing by your doctor. Lifestyle changes like not smoking, eating smaller meals, dropping a few pounds and sleeping with the head of bed elevated may help with your heartburn symptoms.


Talk with a gastroenterologist at Associates in Digestive Health about your GERD symptoms and how you've been controlling them to help decide the best treatment options for you.