Posted by: Maryland ENT in General

Have you experienced a burning sensation after eating or a sour backwash in your throat? This can be a normal reaction, particularly after eating a large meal.

But if it happens two or more times a week, you may have GERD. GERD is a chronic condition that requires treatment to prevent possible complications down the road.

Keep reading to learn more about GERD and how to treat it.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is chronic acid reflux. It occurs when stomach contents, including acid, repeatedly flow back into the esophagus or food pipe.

This is called regurgitation or backwash. GERD is caused by the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring-shaped muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts as a valve, separating the esophagus from the stomach.

The lower esophageal sphincter lets food move from your esophagus to your stomach when you swallow. Typically, this muscle opens when you swallow liquid or food, allowing it to enter your stomach.

It then closes quickly to prevent the stomach content from returning to your esophagus. When this muscle relaxes for too long or too often, gastric acid and contents in your stomach travel back into your esophagus rather than remain in the stomach.

This stomach or gastric acid backwash is known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux. Your stomach has a protective coating that prevents it from being damaged by gastric acid, but your esophagus doesn’t.

Because of this, when your esophagus is exposed to gastric acid, its lining becomes inflamed and irritated. This can cause heartburn, which is a burning pain or sensation in your throat or chest.

Symptoms of GERD

The hallmark signs of GERD are heartburn and regurgitation of sour acid, liquid, or food. The heartburn can linger for as long as two hours.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Burping
  • Bloating
  • Dry cough
  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Esophageal spasms
  • Laryngitis/hoarseness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Wearing away of tooth enamel
  • The sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Bitter or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Excessive or sudden production of saliva

What Causes GERD?

GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux, but it can also be due to reflux or backflow of nonacidic stomach content. Usually, both happen when the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions.

The LES may be loose and not close completely or open too often, even when you’re not swallowing. As a result, stomach acid and contents can backwash into your esophagus, leading to acid reflux.

What are the Risk Factors for GERD?

Anyone can develop GERD. However, some people are more likely to develop GERD due to these risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Overeating
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Having caffeine
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Gastritis or swelling of the stomach lining
  • Excessive exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Eating foods like chocolate, citrus, and spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking some beverages such as coffee, alcohol, or carbonated beverages
  • Connective tissue diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma
  • Ulcers or painful sores on the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum
  • Using certain medications, including antibiotics, sedatives, alpha-blockers, nitrates, potassium, and anti-inflammatories

GERD Complications

GERD typically requires proper management and monitoring by your ENT specialist at Maryland ENT to prevent severe complications. Left untreated, GERD can cause complications such as:

Esophageal Stricture

An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus due to scar tissue that can result in swallowing difficulties.


Esophagitis is long-term inflammation of the esophagus caused by gastric acid. It can cause an ulcer or open sore, which can be painful and make swallowing more challenging.

Barrett’s Esophagus

Barret’s esophagus can lead to thickening and reddening of the esophagus lining, which can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

How Do You Treat GERD?

A combination of prescription medications and lifestyle changes can effectively manage GERD. Medications that can be prescribed include:


These can alleviate heartburn and neutralize stomach acid. Even if there’s backwash, its adverse effects on the esophagus are reduced.

Histamine Antagonists

Histamine triggers acid secretion in the stomach. These block the effects of histamine, suppressing acid production and alleviating GERD symptoms.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

This group of medicines decreases stomach acid production by inhibiting the protein responsible for acid secretion called the proton pump or gastric acid pump. In turn, this gives your esophagus time to repair and heal. PPIs are more effective and offer longer-lasting relief than histamine antagonists.

Foam Barrier Medications

Once swallowed, these medications foam, creating a protective barrier between your esophagus and the top of your stomach. The barrier prevents stomach acid from rising back up your esophagus. Foam barrier medications can block acid reflux for hours.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to medication, your ENT specialist may also suggest lifestyle modifications to help reduce GERD symptoms, including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding overeating
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Chewing food thoroughly
  • Losing weight if necessary
  • Eating smaller portions and slowly
  • Limiting caffeine and carbonated drinks
  • Waiting for two to three hours after eating before sleeping or lying down

Additionally, you should try and avoid foods and drinks that can trigger reflux, such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Pepper
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Tomato products
  • Citrus juices and fruits
  • Fried, fatty, and spicy foods

If GERD doesn’t respond to medication and lifestyle modifications, your ENT specialist may recommend surgery.

Get GERD Under Control

At Maryland ENT, our ENT specialists have experience managing GERD in the long term. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll create the best treatment plan for you.

Do you suspect you have GERD? Schedule your appointment today at Maryland ENT in Lutherville and Baltimore, MD, to get on the path to experiencing long-term relief.