Q : When is a burp more than a burp and something perhaps to be concerned about?
A : When the burp is a symptom not for just simple heartburn but for something called “gastroesophageal reflux disease,” or GERD. That’s the main reason the annual GERD Awareness Week is being marked this month (Nov. 23-29)—to assist you in recognizing the critical difference.
When is it heartburn?
Heartburn is a fiery pain behind the breastbone caused when the stomach’s powerful acids reflux, or back up into the esophagus, which doesn’t have the protective lining that the stomach does. This can be caused when the band of muscle separating the stomach and esophagus is weak or the acid level of the food is also high, or the person overeats.
Nearly everyone experiences heartburn at some time, most often when the individual is lying down. The pain—which rises in the chest and may extend into the neck, throat and even face—may be accompanied by regurgitation into the mouth or excessive salivation.
There are many ways to treat simple heartburn. Raising the head of your bed six inches/15 cms when sleeping may keep acid down. Reducing coffee, alcohol and chocolate intake may also help. An over-the-counter antacid—such as Alka-Seltzer, Milk of Magnesia, Alternagel, Amphojel, Gaviscon, Gelusis, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids or Pepo-Bismol—one hour after meals and one hour before bedtime can further assist in neutralizing stomach acid.
And when it’s more than heartburn?
Functional heartburn is so common—occurring in about 20% of individuals and tending to affect more women than men—it is often overlooked as a disease. So talk to your doctor if:
• Your heartburn happens two or more times a week
• Your heartburn gets worse
• Your heartburn happens at night and wakes you from sleep
• You’ve had heartburn now and then, but for several years
• You have difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Your discomfort or pain interferes with your daily activities
Chronic heartburn or regurgitation into the mouth are the most common symptoms of GERD. But there are other less common ones:
• Difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Sudden excess of saliva
• Dysphagia (the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus)
• Chronic sore throat
• Inflammation of the gums
• Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
• Chronic irritation in the throat
• Hoarseness in the morning
• A sour taste
• Bad breath
GERD is generally a treatable disease. Treatments range from lifestyle or diet measures to the use of medication or surgical procedures. If you have signs of GERD, get an accurate diagnosis, work with your doctor, and receive the most effective treatment available.
Why is GERD week in November?
Why is the annual GERD Awareness program held the end of November? This is America showing a surprising sense of humor by scheduling it during its Thanksgiving week, when the holiday tradition is to eat so much turkey you end up on your back on the living room floor in pain.