Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be a real pain. Imagine indulging in your favourite meal and being hit by an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest. It’s a reality for many. However, understanding what triggers GERD and how to deal with it can make a world of difference.
In this article, we’ll dive into what a GERD attack feels like, how long it might last, methods for immediate relief, and when it’s time to see a specialist.
What Does A GERD Attack Feel Like?
For those who’ve experienced it, a GERD attack is unmistakable. The primary sensation is a burning feeling in the chest, often described as heartburn. It can feel like your chest is on fire, radiating upwards towards the throat. This is caused by stomach acid making its way into the oesophagus.
Other symptoms might include a sour or acidic taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, a sensation of a lump in the throat, and even regurgitation of food or liquid.
How Long Does A GERD Attack Last?
A GERD flare-up isn’t just a fleeting annoyance. For many, it can persist for several hours. The duration often depends on several factors like the trigger – food, stress, or something else – and how one’s body reacts.
Lying down or bending over after a meal can prolong the discomfort, as can consuming certain foods or drinks that aggravate the condition. Thankfully, there are ways to find relief.
Is There An Instant Relief For GERD?
While there might not be a ‘magic potion’ to eradicate GERD symptoms instantly, there are steps to alleviate the discomfort:
- Antacids: These are over-the-counter medications that neutralise stomach acid. They can provide quick relief, but they shouldn’t be used long-term without a doctor’s advice.
- Avoid Trigger Foods: Recognising and avoiding foods that exacerbate your GERD can prevent flare-ups. Common culprits include spicy dishes, citrus fruits, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Elevate Your Head: If you’re lying down, propping yourself up can help. Use pillows to elevate your head by about 6-8 inches (approx. 15 to 20 cm).
- Drink Water: Sipping on a glass of water can help flush down any acid that has found its way into the oesophagus.
How To Manage GERD Symptoms?
Managing GERD goes beyond seeking immediate relief. It’s about adopting a lifestyle that reduces triggers and flare-ups:
- Dietary Changes: As mentioned, certain foods can be triggers. It’s essential to identify these and limit their intake.
- Smaller Meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can reduce the risk of overeating and reflux.
- Avoid Eating Before Bed: Allow at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime.
- Maintain A Healthy Weight: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can put added pressure on the stomach, causing reflux.
- Stay Upright After Eating: Gravity can be your friend. Remaining upright can prevent stomach acid from rising.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: Both can relax the lower oesophagal sphincter, making it easier for acid to escape.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking weakens the lower oesophagal sphincter. By quitting, you strengthen this muscle and reduce the chances of reflux.
When To See A GERD Specialist?
If you’re experiencing severe or frequent GERD symptoms, it’s time to see a specialist. Persistent acid reflux can lead to more severe conditions like oesophagitis, Barrett’s oesophagus, or even oesophageal cancer.
If over-the-counter medications aren’t providing relief, or if you find yourself relying on them frequently, that’s a sign to stop hesitating and seek expert advice and care.
G&L Surgical Clinic specialises in seeing patients who experience frequent acid reflux and GERD symptoms. If lifestyle changes and medication are insufficient in managing your GERD symptoms, talk to our doctor about alternative treatment solutions that may be right for you.