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GERD: Things To Know And Consider

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

    GERD: Things To Know And Consider

    Have you ever felt like food is trapped in your throat, or like you’re choking? This may be due to GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the muscle ring between your esophagus and your stomach, known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). If you have it, you may experience heartburn or acid indigestion. Doctors believe that some people may have it because they have a pre-existing condition known as a hiatal hernia.

    GERD Triggers

    Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition in which stomach contents move back up into the esophagus. The terms “gastroesophageal” and “reflux” refer to the stomach and esophagus.

    Your LES opens to let food into your stomach during regular digestion, then it closes to prevent food and acidic stomach fluids from going back into your esophagus. When the LES is weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, it causes the contents of the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus.

    GERD Risk Factors

     GERD in infants and children is more common than doctors thought. It can cause vomiting that occurs repeatedly, as well as coughing and other breathing problems. More than 60 million American adults experience heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million adults experience it daily, including many pregnant women.

    Factors that may increase your risk of developing GERD include:

    • Being obese or overweight
    • Pregnancy
    • Stomach empties more slowly (gastroparesis)
    • Connective tissue conditions such lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis

    If you already have acid reflux, your diet and lifestyle choices may aggravate it:

    • Smoking
    • Some meals and beverages, such as chocolate, fried, fatty, or spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol may trigger GERD
    • Heavy meals
    • Eating just before going to bed
    • Various drugs, aspirin included

    GERD Signs

    The major signs of GERD are chronic heartburn and acid regurgitation. However, some patients may have chest pain, hoarseness in the morning, or difficulty swallowing. 

    Heartburn (acid indigestion) is the most typical symptom of GERD. It typically manifests as a severe chest discomfort that rises from behind the breastbone to the neck and throat. Many patients report that they feel as though food is returning to their mouths, leaving an acidic or bitter taste.

    In addition to being worse after eating, heartburn can also be brought on by lying down or bending over. Many people get relief from heartburn by standing up straight or by taking an antacid that clears acid out of the esophagus.

    Heartburn pain is less likely to accompany physical activity than heart disease or a heart attack pain, but you can’t tell the difference. If you experience any chest pain, get medical attention immediately away. 

    In addition to pain, you might also experience:

    • Nausea
    • Poor breath
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Vomiting
    • Erosion of dental enamel
    • Feeling of tightness in one’s throat

    In addition to acid reflux at night, you might also experience:

    • A persistent cough
    • Laryngitis
    • Abrupt onset or worsening of asthma
    • Issues with sleep

    Complications with GERD

    GERD can occasionally result in significant complications:

    • Esophageal ulcer. Stomach acid erodes your esophagus until an open sore occurs. This sore is frequently uncomfortable, may bleed, and can make it difficult to swallow.
    • Scar tissue. The lower portion of your esophagus is regularly damaged by stomach acid, which leads to the formation of scar tissue. As the scar tissue thickens, it narrows the inside of the esophagus and makes it difficult to swallow food.
    • Barrett’s esophagus. Acid reflux causes Barrett’s Esophagus, which causes the lining of the esophagus to thicken and turn red. This condition is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
    • Lung issues. Acid reflux can irritate and hurt your throat if it reaches the back of it, and it can also enter your lungs (aspiration). If this happens, your voice may become hoarse, and you may also experience postnasal drip, chest congestion, and a persistent cough. If your lungs become inflamed, you may also develop asthma, bronchitis, and possibly pneumonia.


    Although GERD can limit your daily activities, it’s rarely life-threatening. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor. 

    Learn more about GERD here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

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