If you often get a burning chest pain accompanied by a sour taste when bending over after a heavy meal, the chances are you could be experiencing heartburn – a classical symptom of GERD. Did you know that about 60 million Americans experience heartburn once a month and 15 million suffer from GERD symptoms on a daily basis?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder that is characterized by the upward flow of the contents of the stomach into the esophagus. In normal digestion, this upward flow of the acidic gastric juices is prevented by the contraction of a sphincter that separates the stomach and the esophagus. In those suffering from GERD, the sphincter is weakened or relaxes inappropriately causing the acidic contents to spill into the esophagus resulting in symptoms such as a burning chest pain, a source taste in the mouth, sore throat, coughing, and difficulty swallowing. In cases of severe GERD, the chest pain is often mistaken for a heart attack. The symptoms are usually experienced after a heavy meal and when bending forward or lying down. If left untreated, ulcers and precancerous lesions may develop in the esophagus.
The risks associated with chronic GERD include ulceration and narrowing of lower esophagus causing difficulty swallowing, and Barrett’s esophagus – a precancerous change in lining of lower esophagus. It’s for these reasons and for improvements in quality of life that treatment of GERD is important.
The aim of treatment is to reduce the amount of acid reflux into the esophagus. The first line of treatment is generally with use of acid suppressive medications. If you are obese or overweight, an important first step in resolving your GERD symptoms is to bring your weight down to an acceptable level. This can be achieved by diet and exercise or in some instances bariatric. If you have a hiatal hernia causing GERD, your may seek surgical consultation for minimally invasive surgery to repair the hernia. Avoiding triggering foods and alcoholic beverages which tend to relax the esophageal sphincter will help prevent heartburn.
With proper understanding of the causes and prompt treatment along with the necessary diet and lifestyle changes, you can make sure that the burning chest pain and sour taste in your mouth are things of the past.