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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness Week (November)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a common problem for many Americans which causes stomach acid to flow up the esophagus (throat) instead of staying in the stomach. There is no single cause of GERD, but problems associated with the disease can cause heartburn, anxiety, sleepless nights, or even cancer.

November 24-30, 2013, begins the 15th Annual GERD Awareness Week. For millions of Americans, GERD Awareness Week could not come at a more appropriate time than the same week as Thanksgiving! Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and all those different pies offered at Thanksgiving feasts can bring about massive amounts of suffering for those with GERD.

Some symptoms of the disease include:

  • Belching
  • Difficulty/pain when swallowing
  • Sudden excess of saliva
  • Laryngitis
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Dysphagia (the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus)
  • Erosion of tooth enamel
  • Chronic throat irritation
  • Hoarseness in the morning
  • A sour taste in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Inflammation of gums

While all people experience heartburn at some point in their life, people with GERD typically have heartburn two or more times per week that can disrupt daily activities and sleep. If you know somebody with the disease, try to be understanding if they keep passing by your secret gravy recipe or say no to your grandma's sweet potato pie. Social pressure from family and friends can cause a lot of anxiety for those with GERD, since it only takes one meal to cause days of suffering. The person passing the gravy probably wishes they could taste it as much as you!

The goals of GERD treatment are:

  • to bring the symptoms under control so that the individual feels better;
  • heal the esophagus of inflammation or injury;
  • manage or prevent complications such as Barrett's esophagus or stricture;
  • and maintain the symptoms of GERD in remission so that daily life is unaffected or minimally affected by reflux.

Treatments include lifestyle modification, medications and surgery. There is no cure for GERD. If you or someone you love has GERD, call the IFFGD Helpline toll-free at 1-(888) 964-2001 or visit aboutgerd.org to receive information and support.

Article provided by Community Wellness of Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, related to the information in this article, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.