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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when acid and food in the stomach back up into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is reflux that occurs more than twice a week for a few weeks. It usually causes heartburn and other symptoms. GERD can cause other health problems over time if it is not treated.
Seek care immediately if:
- You feel full and cannot burp or vomit.
- You have severe chest pain and sudden trouble breathing.
- Your bowel movements are black, bloody, or tarry-looking.
- Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You vomit large amounts, or you vomit often.
- You have trouble breathing after you vomit.
- You have trouble swallowing, or pain with swallowing.
- You are losing weight without trying.
- Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Medicines are used to decrease stomach acid. Medicine may also be used to help your lower esophageal sphincter and stomach contract (tighten) more.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
- Do not have foods or drinks that may increase heartburn. These include chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, drinks that contain caffeine, or carbonated drinks (soda). Other foods include spicy foods, onions, tomatoes, and tomato-based foods. Do not have foods or drinks that can irritate your esophagus, such as citrus fruits, juices, and alcohol.
- Do not eat large meals. When you eat a lot of food at one time, your stomach needs more acid to digest it. Eat 6 small meals each day instead of 3 large ones, and eat slowly. Do not eat meals 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
- Elevate the head of your bed. Place 6-inch blocks under the head of your bed frame. You may also use more than one pillow under your head and shoulders while you sleep.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, weight loss may help relieve symptoms of GERD.
- Do not smoke. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and increases the risk of GERD. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do not wear clothing that is tight around your waist. Tight clothing can put pressure on your stomach and cause or worsen GERD symptoms.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.