GERD & Heartburn Care
Find relief from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) with the help of Virginia Hospital Center’s Heartburn Center. You’ll have access to many digestive health specialists, including doctors, nurses and technicians with special training to care for your condition.
Heartburn, or acid reflux, results from backup of food and stomach acid into your esophagus (food pipe). You may experience:
- Burning sensation in the middle of your chest
- Feeling of something stuck in your throat
- Persistent cough
- Stomach pain
- Trouble swallowing
Your symptoms may worsen when you lie down or bend over.
You may have GERD if your heartburn happens at least twice a week and interferes with your daily life. See your doctor if you’ve been taking antacids for more than two weeks. Left untreated, GERD can lead to stomach ulcers, esophageal cancer and lung conditions.
What Causes GERD?
GERD may develop because of a problem with your lower esophageal sphincter, the muscles that prevent acid from backing up into your esophagus. Obesity, pregnancy and smoking also contribute to GERD.
Your Diet’s Impact
Your diet does not cause GERD, but reflux symptoms may worsen when you consume:
- Citrus fruits
- Drinks with caffeine or alcohol
- Fatty and fried foods
- Garlic and onions
- Mint-flavored foods
- Spicy foods
- Tomatoes, including spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili and pizza sauce
Testing for GERD
Your doctor may use one or more of these tests to diagnose GERD.
Barium Swallow Radiograph
You'll drink a barium solution that makes your esophagus show up on X-ray scans. This test can show ulcers, esophageal narrowing and hiatal hernias (stomach bulges that contribute to GERD).
Esophageal Motility Study
During this test, also called esophageal manometry, a healthcare professional numbs your throat and slides a tiny tube into your esophagus. Then, you drink water as a computer connected to the tube records your esophageal muscle contractions.
Esophageal pH Monitoring
Your doctor will place a tiny tube or device in your esophagus for 24 to 48 hours. This device measures how much and how often acid backs up into your food pipe. You may need to keep a food diary so your doctor can see the link between your diet and acid reflux flare-ups.
For upper endoscopy, your doctor will numb your throat, sedate you and then slide a tiny camera into your esophagus. If necessary, the doctor can also take small samples of tissue for a biopsy examination of tissue in a lab.
Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend one or more of these approaches to control your symptoms:
- Lifestyle changes – Weight loss, dietary adjustments, smoking cessation and other measures
- Antacids – Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums, Titralac and other over-the-counter medications
- H2 blockers – Prescription and over-the-counter medications that treat ulcers
- Prokinectics – Prescription medications that strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter and make the stomach empty faster
- Proton pump inhibitors - Prescription and over-the-counter medications that heal the esophageal lining and work better than H2 blockers
If medications and lifestyle changes do not offer enough relief, you may benefit from procedures, such as:
- Nissen fundoplication – Wraps the top of your stomach around the lower esophagus to prevent acid backup and vomiting
- Stretta®- A non-invasive endocopic procedure, it heats your lower esophageal sphincter to make it swell and stiffen, so it can better block stomach acid from backing up