Medical Insight: GERD – Essentia Health

Almost everyone enjoys a rich delicious meal, but sufferers of GERD know they’ll pay the price later GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition in which acidic contents from the stomach go up into the esophagus causing pain or discomfort

Dr Kimberly Kolkhorst is the chair of the gastroenterology department at Essentia Health in Fargo She says patients with GERD might complain about a feeling of food stuck in their throat, difficulty swallowing, throat clearing, nausea or pain in the arm or jaw “The main symptom people complain of is a true heartburn when there’s a burning sensation that goes up to the chest usually prandial which means after they’ve eaten and sometimes these symptoms can awaken them at night too” Dr

Kolkhorst says GERD can run in families and obesity can be a contributing factor The culprit is a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus which is supposed to tighten in between meals, but somehow gets relaxed allowing the acid to bubble up “There are several things that could make that sphincter relax, sometimes it’s food triggers I always say it’s the five good things in life: chocolate, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and peppermint” Dr

Kolkhorst says avoiding those things and losing weight, not wearing tight fitting garments, and not lying down immediately after eating are the first lines of defense against GERD She also recommends trying over the counter medications such as H2 blockers or PPI’s If that still doesn’t work, doctors can perform an endoscopy for signs of reflux damage “There’s also something called a Bravo or Ph study where we can pin a device inside the esophagus to measure your ph level which is the true measure of acid” Because GERD can manifest with chest pain, Dr

Kolkhorst says it’s important to rule out heart symptoms first, so don’t hesitate getting checked out by a doctor With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I’m Tracy Briggs


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