Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Adult

ExitCare ImageGastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when acid from your stomach flows up into the esophagus. When acid comes in contact with the esophagus, the acid causes soreness (inflammation) in the esophagus. Over time, GERD may create small holes (ulcers) in the lining of the esophagus.


  • Increased body weight. This puts pressure on the stomach, making acid rise from the stomach into the esophagus.

  • Smoking. This increases acid production in the stomach.

  • Drinking alcohol. This causes decreased pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter (valve or ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach), allowing acid from the stomach into the esophagus.

  • Late evening meals and a full stomach. This increases pressure and acid production in the stomach.

  • A malformed lower esophageal sphincter.

Sometimes, no cause is found.


  • Burning pain in the lower part of the mid-chest behind the breastbone and in the mid-stomach area. This may occur twice a week or more often.

  • Trouble swallowing.

  • Sore throat.

  • Dry cough.

  • Asthma-like symptoms including chest tightness, shortness of breath, or wheezing.


Your caregiver may be able to diagnose GERD based on your symptoms. In some cases, X-rays and other tests may be done to check for complications or to check the condition of your stomach and esophagus.


Your caregiver may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medicines to help decrease acid production. Ask your caregiver before starting or adding any new medicines.


  • Change the factors that you can control. Ask your caregiver for guidance concerning weight loss, quitting smoking, and alcohol consumption.

  • Avoid foods and drinks that make your symptoms worse, such as:

  • Caffeine or alcoholic drinks.

  • Chocolate.

  • Peppermint or mint flavorings.

  • Garlic and onions.

  • Spicy foods.

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, or limes.

  • Tomato-based foods such as sauce, chili, salsa, and pizza.

  • Fried and fatty foods.

  • Avoid lying down for the 3 hours prior to your bedtime or prior to taking a nap.

  • Eat small, frequent meals instead of large meals.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. Do not wear anything tight around your waist that causes pressure on your stomach.

  • Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches with wood blocks to help you sleep. Extra pillows will not help.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


  • You have pain in your arms, neck, jaw, teeth, or back.

  • Your pain increases or changes in intensity or duration.

  • You develop nausea, vomiting, or sweating (diaphoresis).

  • You develop shortness of breath, or you faint.

  • Your vomit is green, yellow, black, or looks like coffee grounds or blood.

  • Your stool is red, bloody, or black.

These symptoms could be signs of other problems, such as heart disease, gastric bleeding, or esophageal bleeding.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.