GERD 101

Have you ever been out for tacos and margaritas, enjoying the evening with your besties, when suddenly, you feel a fire within your chest, and then, with a little belch, comes a sour or bitter liquid you can feel in your throat? You may be experiencing GERD, more commonly known as acid reflux. It may sound scary, but it’s super common, with as much as 20% of the U.S. population experiencing symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at GERD, its symptoms, and how to treat it.

What Is GERD?

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition where acidic foods and beverages in your stomach leak back up into your esophagus. This happens when your esophagus doesn’t close like it should when food gets to your stomach. Next comes the acid backwash that flows up through your esophagus and into your throat and mouth, giving you a sour taste. You may have experienced this at some point in your life, but if you notice this happening more than twice a week, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it and work together on a plan.


The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which feels like a burning chest pain that starts behind your breastbone and moves toward your neck and throat. Heartburn typically worsens after eating, at night, and when lying down. Another common symptom is a sour or bitter liquid that you can taste and feel.

Aside from these two common symptoms, if you have GERD, you may also experience nausea, bad breath, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, or a lump in your throat.

If you have nighttime acid reflux, you may also experience an ongoing cough, new or worsening asthma, laryngitis, and trouble sleeping.

Do Certain Foods Trigger GERD?

Foods that are high in salt, spice, and fat tend to be the most triggering for GERD. Examples include fried food, fast food, pizza, chips, high-processed foods, fatty meats such as bacon and sausage, cheese, citrus-based fruits like oranges and tomatoes, peppermint, coffee, and carbonated and alcoholic beverages.

Moderation is always key, so make sure to limit your intake of any foods you know cause you discomfort. You can also try avoiding late-night snacking and opt to eat multiple small meals every day versus fewer filling meals.

Do Certain Foods Prevent GERD?

While we’re on the topic of food, we also have some good news: There are many foods we can eat to prevent acid reflux, including high-fiber foods such as oatmeal, root vegetables, and green vegetables, which make us feel fuller faster. In addition, alkaline foods such as bananas, melons, fennel, and nuts have higher pH levels, which can help offset strong stomach acid. And lastly, watery foods such as celery, lettuce, herbal tea, and watermelon can dilute and weaken stomach acid.

Treating GERD

More good news? You can treat GERD with over-the-counter medications such as antacids (like Tums or Alka-Seltzer); histamine (H2) blockers (like Pepcid and Zantac), or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) (such as Prilosec or Prevacid). Although it’s important to note that if you’re turning to over-the-counter meds more than twice a week, you should speak with your doctor about your acid reflux. Regarding lifestyle changes, limit acidic foods, avoid eating large meals, and quit smoking.

Do you have experience living with and treating GERD? Share with us in the comments below!

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