Up to 20% of adults in the United States have GERD.

*According to the American College of Gastroenterology

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when your stomach acid flows back from the stomach into your esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest (“heartburn”) and/or regurgitation of food or liquid that leaves a sour taste in your mouth. It is termed Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) when that reflux causes troublesome symptoms and/or complications.

GERD is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases in the United States. For those with allergies and asthma, GERD can aggravate their symptoms or sometimes mimic other allergic diseases. 

What Causes GERD?

Reflux occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter is not working properly. This band of muscle is at the end of your esophagus and relaxes and opens when you swallow, and then it tightens again. 

If it does not tighten or close properly, stomach acid and contents can rise up, causing the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. 

Examples of some things that can loosen that sphincter include: 

  • Hiatal hernia
  • Eating large meals that can distend the upper part of your stomach
  • Lying down too soon after eating 
  • Certain foods
  • Some asthma medications (oral steroids and quick-relief inhalers, such as albuterol, at high doses)

What Foods Trigger GERD?

gerd

Foods that trigger GERD can be different for each person, but common triggers include:

  • Fatty or greasy foods
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint or mint
  • Onions
  • Coffee
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauces

GERD Symptoms

  • Regurgitation or backwash of food or sour liquid
  • Sore throat or feeling like you have a lump in your throat
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Recurrent or chronic cough
  • Heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Cavities or teeth erosion
  • Laryngitis or a hoarse voice
  • Wheezing

Reflux is common among patients with asthma, with up to 40-80% of patients reporting reflux symptoms.

*According to Chan, W. W. (2021, April 30). Pulmonary Complications of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The Esophagus.

GERD Risk Factors

Overweight or obese individuals
Pregnant Women
Smokers
Asthmatics
Individuals that have a hiatal hernia
Individuals with Scleroderma or connective tissue disorders
Individuals with delayed emptying of the stomach, or gastroparesis
Gerd overlap

What Allergy and Asthma Conditions Overlap with Gerd?

  • Chronic/recurrent cough – Chronic cough is sometimes a result of GERD. When it is, GERD treatment usually resolves the cough.
  • Asthma – When asthma symptoms flare, the esophageal sphincter can relax, triggering reflux and GERD symptoms. GERD can also trigger asthma. If both diseases are present, it is important they are both under good control to prevent further worsening.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) – While trouble swallowing (or the sensation that food is stuck in the throat) is more common for EoE, regurgitation and heartburn are typical for GERD, the symptoms for these two entities often overlap. However, they are diagnosed and treated very differently.

Tips for Managing and Preventing Gerd

Senior Couple Enjoying a Healthy Meal Around Table At Home

Changes to your lifestyle can help prevent or manage GERD. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating frequent, smaller meals
  • Avoiding fatty and spicy foods and foods that trigger your GERD
  • Eating upright and not laying down for two hours after eating
  • Wearing loose fitting clothing on the belly area
  • Sleeping in an upright position, with the head of the bed elevated 6-8 inches
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol
  • Decreasing or avoiding caffeinated beverages

How to Treat Gerd Naturally?

Symptoms from mild GERD may respond to natural remedies such as those listed below:

Weight-loss

Stress-management

Chamomile tea

Regularly exercise

Avoid dietary triggers

What Medications CAN Treat Gerd?

There are over-the-counter and prescription medications to help with GERD symptoms. These include:

  • Antacids
  • H-2 receptor blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors

If unresponsive to these treatments, you may need to see a gastroenterology specialist to help confirm your diagnosis, get your symptoms under control, and prevent GERD complications.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease FAQ

What does GERD feel like?

How long does GERD last?

How to sleep with GERD?