If you experience an annoying sensation in your stomach that feels like the acid in your stomach is bubbling toward your throat, maybe you have chronic heartburn. While it’s normal to experience heartburn from eating greasy foods, many times it could be something more severe.
GERD symptoms encompass a range of uncomfortable experiences, such as heartburn, acid reflux, and difficulties with swallowing. These symptoms can significantly impact the quality of life and should not be ignored.
GERD stands for a medical condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease. This medical condition occurs when the acid in your stomach rises to your mouth, lungs, and esophagus.
The truth is the condition isn’t rare. Yes, you heard it right! According to research studies, around 18 to 27% of people in North America suffer from the condition.
If you want to know “what are the symptoms of GERD”, keep reading as in this post, you will discover warning signs, indicators of GERD, risk factors, and treatments
What Are the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms?
Bitter taste in the mouth
One of the first gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms is that you have a bitter taste in your mouth.
GERD moves the food and bile from your tummy into your throat, causing a bitter taste in your mouth. At the same time, you may also experience a burning in your esophagus that is highly unpleasant and painful.
It is one of the GERD symptoms when your throat feels hot and sore, and you also produce more saliva than usual. It almost feels as if your throat is on fire. So, if this happens to you, do not shrug it off as a one or two-time occurrence.
Many people who experience heartburn think that the heartburn will go away if they take an antacid, but sometimes it does not. Remember that when it does not go away, it might not be a simple heartburn as severe GERD symptoms often include a burning sensation in the chest.
It is normal to feel regurgitation and heartburn in your chest occasionally. But if it happens frequently, you may have contracted GERD.
If you are experiencing a sensation of food getting stuck in your throat, it is another symptom commonly associated with GERD, further indicating the possibility of its presence. It’s important to recognize and address GERD symptoms to ensure proper diagnosis and appropriate management of GERD.
When you have GERD, you feel like the food is getting stuck in your throat, and this condition is called dysphagia. Remember that this condition can make it difficult to swallow. It can also make you feel like you do not want to eat.
The condition seems to flare up when eating these foods: Spicy foods, Chocolate, Acidic foods, Soft cheeses, and Caffeine.
You feel like a heart attack is on its way
Another one of GERD symptoms in adults is that you feel like you are experiencing a heart attack. Since the chest is next to the heart, you might mistake the GERD symptoms for the cardiac symptoms associated with a heart attack.
Other than burning, you can also feel pain when suffering from GERD. That is another reason people think they are having a heart attack when they experience GERD.
Remember that if you are not sure what is causing your chest pain, the best option is to see a physician to find out for sure and get medications. You should never just assume that you have GERD and head to the neighborhood pharmacy for an over-the-counter medication.
You may suffer from a persistent cough
When the acid in your stomach travels up your food pipe, some of the acids can seep into your lungs, which further creates respiratory problems. They can be minor and give you a hoarse cough, cause congestion in your chest, or you may even suffer from persistent cough.
Sometimes respiratory issues can cause pneumonia, wheezing, laryngitis, or asthma. This is why you should consider seeing a physician to find out the cause.
You may face respiratory problems
If you feel shortness of breath, you should know that difficulty in breathing is one of the many GERD symptoms. Some of the respiratory problems are associated with GERD include aspiration or bronchospasm. You should know that these conditions can become life-threatening and should not be ignored.
Serious Issues That Could Happen If GERD Is Left Untreated
You need to keep in mind that GERD symptoms and treatment go hand in hand. If left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious health conditions. Yes, that’s true!
- One condition is called esophagitis. Esophagitis happens when acid damages the lining inside the esophagus.
- Other conditions that may occur from acid reflux disease include a hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernias form when the stomach slides into the chest from your diaphragm.
- GERD can also turn into esophageal ulcers, esophageal strictures, or at worst a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. It’s also known as esophageal cancer.
There are several risk factors for GERD, and here are some of them:
- Obesity and excess body weight can increase abdominal pressure, leading to a higher likelihood of acid reflux.
- A hiatal hernia, where part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm, can also contribute to GERD.
- Other factors include smoking, which weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, pregnancy, which places pressure on the abdomen, and certain medications like antihistamines and calcium channel blockers.
- Dietary choices, such as consuming fatty and spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine, can also exacerbate GERD symptoms.
These negative risk factors for GERD can contribute to the development or worsening of GERD symptoms. Managing these risk factors and adopting lifestyle modifications can help reduce the occurrence and severity of GERD symptoms.
Causes of GERD
Just like any other disease, there are numerous factors that can cause GERD. Here are some causes of GERD in adults.
- Weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES)
- Hiatal hernia
- Abnormal esophageal contractions
- Delayed stomach emptying (gastroparesis)
- Increased abdominal pressure
- Obesity and excess body weight
- Certain medications (e.g., antihistamines, calcium channel blockers)
- Dietary factors (e.g., fatty and spicy foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine)
- Alcohol consumption
- Stress and anxiety
These factors can contribute to the development or exacerbation of GERD by impairing the function of the LES, increasing acid production, or disrupting the normal digestive process. It’s important to identify and address these causes of GERD in older adults to effectively manage its symptoms.
When to Contact Your Physician?
If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned GERD symptoms such as shortness of breath, a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, or chest pain, contact your physician immediately. Your doctor will do some tests, and if you have GERD, they may prescribe what’s known as a proton pump inhibitor for treatment. Some of the medications may include but are not limited to:
The above are the most common medicines to treat GERD, but there are other medical options as well. Moreover, your physician may refer you to a gastroenterologist for further testing as well.
Home Remedies to Treat GERD
You can take steps at home to relieve your GERD symptoms. Some of the things that can help include elevating your head at bedtime and improving your digestion.
- Eat three to four hours before bedtime to give your food time to digest properly while you’re still awake.
- Elevate your head when you get ready for bed by propping your pillows up high.
- Sleep on your left side to avoid irritation due to the shape of the stomach.
Following these tips will help relieve your GERD and allow you to sleep more soundly through the night.
We hope that now you know the gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms that you might experience when you have GERD. This condition can be managed with medication, proper diet, and sleep adjustments. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should immediately visit your doctor. And, if you already have a prescription from your doctor and are looking for affordable medications, contact our pharmacy to learn how you can save on a wide variety of prescriptions.
- 2002. Joel J. Heidelbaugh. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Michigan Medicine. https://www.med.umich.edu/1info/FHP/practiceguides/gerd/gerd.12.pdf
- 2013. National Insititute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. San Francisco Surgical. Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in adults. https://sfsurgery.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Gastroesophageal-Reflux-Disease-GERD.pdf
- 2019. J. family Med Prim Care. Prevalence and risk factors of gastroesophageal reflux disease. NIH. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6436310/
- 2021. Anna Taraszewska. Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms Related to Lifestyle and Diet. National Institute of Public Health. https://wydawnictwa.pzh.gov.pl/roczniki_pzh/media/Taraszewska_RPZH_2021_Vol%2072.pdf
- 2021. Rasool MF. Assessing the Frequency and Risk Factors Associated with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Dove Press. https://www.dovepress.com/assessing-the-frequency-and-risk-factors-associated-with-gastroesophag-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-RMHP