If you have ever felt a gnawing burning sensation in your chest or throat after eating a large or greasy meal then you probably know the discomfort of heartburn, it is a common symptom caused by stomach contents filling back up into the esophagus, the stomach has a lining to protect it from acid but the esophagus does not, there is supposed to be a valve located where the stomach and esophagus join called the lower esophageal sphincter valve or les, when the les malfunctions or is damaged, it doesn’t close properly, to keep the contents down in the stomach where they belong, for those who have gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD, the backflow of acidic contents can be ongoing. Chronic acid reflux symptoms include heartburn, a sensation of food moving up the throat or into the mouth, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, persistent sore throat, coarseness, chronic coughing, difficult or painful swallowing, asthma unexplained, chest pain, bad breath, a feeling of a lump in the throat and an uncomfortable feeling of fullness after meals, in more severe cases of untreated GERD, permanent damage can occur to the teeth as the harsh stomach acid erodes, tooth enamel damage can also occur in the esophagus, larynx, mouth or any part of the upper digestive tract that is regularly exposed to acidic stomach contents. GERD is very common affecting approximately 13 to 29 percent of Canadians, the good news is that with the proper combination of lifestyle changes and medications, it is possible to manage symptoms and get relief, dietary changes while unable to cure GERD can reduce symptoms, fatty or spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine tend to worsen symptoms but everyone is different so pay attention to what you eat and avoid foods that make you feel worse, you should also reduce meal size as smaller frequent meals cause less acid reflux than large meals. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and reducing the amount you eat before bed can help ease reflux symptoms, while sleeping use gravity to help keep stomach acid in the stomach by propping up the head of your mattress or bed frame, Don’t just pile on the pillows though because this can cause neck and back pain. These changes are a great starting point but many people with GERD require further treatment, there are two main approaches to treating GERD with medications; neutralizing acid and blocking its production, over-the-counter medications are useful for neutralizing acid, these antacids can provide quick temporary or partial relief but they do not prevent heartburn, some medications which are mostly available by prescription work to block the production of acid and prevent reflux from occurring in the first place, by following your physicians directions and using a combination of these treatment methods, it is possible to manage symptoms and live a healthy life.

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