What Is the Difference Between Acid Reflux and GERD?


People may hear the terms “GERD” and “acid reflux” and question whether they are different conditions or one and the same. Often, these conditions seem to produce the same primary symptom — a burning pain in the chest or heartburn. There is a little more to it than simply heartburn, though. What, exactly, are the differences between GERD and acid reflux?

The GI providers at Washington Gastroenterology can help you understand the details of various digestive conditions so you can focus on your gastrointestinal (GI) health and overall wellness. Our Washington digestive health specialists want you to be knowledgeable about any conditions you may have so that you can make sound decisions for your future.

What causes acid reflux?

After you swallow, food and drink pass from your esophagus into your stomach through the lower esophageal sphincter, known as the LES. Sometimes, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to close completely, letting stomach acid move back into the esophagus. This process causes the feeling of “heartburn” many people have.

Various factors may prevent the LES from closing properly, but it is often due to the loss of strength in the lower esophageal sphincter. Some common causes of this involve:

  • Caffeine consumption
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Spicy and fatty foods
  • A diet high in fat and low in fiber
  • Specific medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity

Acid reflux vs. gastroesophageal reflux disease

If you experience acid reflux two or more times a week or if acid reflux medications fail to reduce your acid reflux, it is possible you could be suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Our Washington Gastroenterology team is ready to help you better understand your symptoms and determine if you are experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease or a different GI condition. Finding the right treatment method to alleviate GERD symptoms could take a bit of trial and error. However, our GI specialists are here to assist you along the way.

How is GERD treated?

If you are seeking GERD treatment in Washington, there are a number of options we may try. To begin, we may review your health history and any medications you currently take. In some cases, we may be able to adjust medications to help provide relief. Other approaches we might recommend include:

  • Lose weight if suggested by your doctor
  • Eat a high-fiber diet
  • Avoid citrus, high-fat, and spicy foods
  • Eat more slowly
  • Remain upright after you eat
  • Avoid eating three hours before going to bed
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Sleep at an incline

Should you not find relief from your symptoms after trying one or more of the above options, we may suggest a different protocol. This might include prescription-strength medications or, typically as a last resort, a surgical procedure.

Find relief from acid reflux and GERD symptoms in Washington

The providers at Washington Gastroenterology diagnose and treat a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses, including acid reflux and GERD. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease or are searching for an effective way to manage acid reflux, we can provide the care you need. For more on how we can help you find relief from GERD and acid reflux symptoms, contact one of our Washington locations today.

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