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How to Tell the Difference Between Acid Reflux and GERD

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One of the best parts of summer is the increase in socializing, which of course, comes with sharing meals and quality time with our loved ones. With this, you may find that the BBQs and patio meals you’ve been enjoying cause a less than enjoyable digestion reaction afterwards.

If you experience pain or burning sensation in your chest and upper stomach, bloating or indigestion, you are most likely having acid reflux from your meal. Now, how you respond to these uncomfortable symptoms should depend on whether you have acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). We hope this article will help clarify the similarities and differences between acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD. Knowing what you are dealing with will help you be able to choose the best way to respond.

The Difference Between Acid Reflux, Heartburn and GERD

Since all of these terms are related and commonly used interchangeably, it can be understandably confusing. Here is the difference between the three terms:

  • Acid reflux refers to stomach acid reversing into the esophagus. This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weak or fails to keep the food contained to the stomach and out of the lower esophagus.
  • Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD. It is a painful sensation in the chest that can vary in intensity from mild to severe (serious heartburn is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack).
  • GERD is chronic acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week or frequent esophageal swelling, you may be diagnosed with GERD.

Bloated man CanadianPharmacyMeds.comAs you can see, these terms overlap for good reason. However, upon deeper consideration, they are distinctly different:

  • While heartburn is a core symptom of acid reflux and GERD, there are many other symptoms. For this reason, using “heartburn” to refer to either acid reflux or GERD is not encompassing or accurate.
  • Even though acid reflux and GERD have the same symptoms, GERD usually means a higher severity of pain, plus additional symptoms.
  • In rare but severe cases of GERD, medical procedures or surgery may be required.
  • Occasional cases of acid reflux is very different from the chronic experience of GERD. Occasional reflux is not a serious concern, while GERD may lead to ulcers, bleeding in your esophageal lining or tissue scarring.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

  • Heartburn
  • The taste of regurgitated food in your throat
  • Sour taste in your mouth
  • Burning feeling in your mouth and throat
  • Dyspepsia: bloating, nausea, gas, uncomfortable or upset stomach

GERD Symptoms

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitated food taste
  • Dyspepsia
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Asthma flare-ups after meals
  • Poor appetite or unexpected weight loss

Acid Reflux Treatment

Acid reflux is typically an occasional occurrence and can be treated with over-the-counter medication like Pepcid or Zantac. Antacid medication work to relieve heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid. If you are looking for medication to treat one or two main symptoms (usually heartburn or gas), talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best medication for your specific symptoms.

Avoiding certain foods and drinks may also help minimize acid reflux. Minimizing spicy food, acidic food, fatty or fried food, chocolate and alcohol will help prevent symptoms. Eating smaller meals can also help. Changing lifestyle factors like quitting smoking and losing weight (if overweight) can also decrease acid reflux after meals.

GERD Treatment

MSG could cause migraines CanadianPharmacyMeds.comIf you deal with acid reflux on a regular basis and find your symptoms are worsening, you should see your doctor to get officially diagnosed with GERD, and to ask about the best treatment plan for you. GERD is best addressed with a combination of effective medication, dietary changes and lifestyle changes. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may prefer over-the-counter or prescription medication. Different medications will address different goals: antacids help neutralize stomach acid, H-2 receptor blockers can give longer-lasting relief and reduce your body’s acid production, and proton pump inhibitors block acid production more firmly, giving your esophagus lining more time to heal.

Make dietary changes to avoid trigger foods and liquids. This list include fatty or fried food, spicy food, chocolate, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, caffeine and alcohol. Avoid overeating or eating late at night (you want to have at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime).

Maintaining a healthy weight will also make a difference in the severity of your GERD symptoms. Excess weight puts pressure on your stomach, making it easier for acid to be pushed back towards your esophagus.

We hope this article has helped clarify how acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD are similar and how they are different. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the best treatment plan and medication for you.

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