Peter Moses, MD, is a gastroenterologist at The University of Vermont Medical Center and professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

Peter Moses, MD, is a gastroenterologist at The University of Vermont Medical Center and professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

If you have ongoing and recurring heartburn it may be a sign that you have GERD: gastroesophagael reflux disease. GERD occurs when stomach acid and gastric contents wash back into your esophagus and throat.

It’s important to know that having heartburn from time to time does not mean you have GERD. You may experience heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth when you eat too much (particularly fatty meals), or lie down or bend forward after eating.

On the other hand, when symptoms occur frequently and last longer it may be a sign that GERD is the problem. is the most common casue of GERD is inappropriate relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that opens to let food pass into your stomach. When the LESdoesn’t close tightly enough, stomach acid and other stomach contents can flow back and gain access to the esophagus or throat. GERD often requires treatment since it can cause ulcers and other damage to your esophagus and throat. GERD may be treated by over-the-counter medicines, like TUMS, Pepcid, or Prilosec

Changing your diet and eating habits may help, too. Here’s what you can do:

Avoid GERD and Acid Reflux: Make these changes

  • Eat several small meals instead of fewer larger ones.
  • Wait 2-3 hours after you eat to lie down.
  • Don’t eat late-night snacks!
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.

Avoid these foods

  • Avoid chocolate, mint, and alcohol. They make GERD worse because they relax the esophageal sphincter. Skip the after dinner mints!
  • Avoid spicy, fried, and fatty foods (like cheese, nuts, avocadoes, and steak). Fats slow down the emptying of the stomach, which increases pressure on the esophageal sphincter when the stomach becomes distended.
  • Avoid foods that have a lot of acid, like citrus fruits and juices and tomatoes and tomato-based foods.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda, and iced tea.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages that distend the stomach and put pressure on the esophageal sphincter.

Also, get to know your own triggers. Keep a food log to help you track the foods that are your heartburn offenders, and use your log to develop a list of safe foods.

Learn more about Gastroenterology at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

Peter Moses, MD, is a gastroenterologist at The University of Vermont Medical Center and professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

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