Are There Differences Between Acid Reflux and GERD?


Frequently, adults hear or see the words “GERD” and “acid reflux” and question if there is any difference or if they are the same. On the surface, they may seem to cause the same primary symptom — a burning pain in the chest or "heartburn." There is more to it than just heartburn, however. What, exactly, then, are the differences between GERD and acid reflux?

The GI doctors at GI Alliance of Arkansas want to help you understand the differences between various gastro conditions so you can focus on your gastrointestinal (GI) and overall health. Our Northwest Arkansas digestive health specialists want you to feel confident enough about your GI health to make sound decisions that can help you.

What causes acid reflux?

After you swallow, your food or drink will flow from your esophagus into your stomach through the lower esophageal sphincter, known as the LES. Sometimes, however, the LES will fail to completely close and allow the acid formed during this process to flow back into the esophagus. This process causes the heartburn sensation many experience.

There may be many reasons the lower esophageal sphincter will not close all the way. It is generally the result of weakness in an individual’s lower esophageal sphincter. Some causes of a weak lower esophageal sphincter are:

  • Eating a lot of spicy foods
  • A diet full of fat
  • Too much caffeine
  • Specific medications
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption

Acid reflux vs. gastroesophageal reflux disease

If you have experienced acid reflux more than a few times a week or if heartburn medications don’t minimize these symptoms, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Our GI Alliance of Arkansas providers are here to help you understand your symptoms and figure out if you are suffering from GERD or a different GI condition entirely. Sometimes it can take a little bit of trial and error to find a treatment method that helps alleviate GERD symptoms. However, our providers are available to aid you along the way.

How will my GERD be treated?

When you need treatment for GERD in Northwest Arkansas, we can try several treatment methods. Initially, we will review your current medications and general health to determine if we should adjust your medications. Some other common adjustments we could recommend include:

  • Drink less caffeine
  • Eat slower than normal
  • Make adjustments to your diet to include foods high in fiber and avoid foods that include citrus, high fat, or spices
  • Remain sitting up following your meals
  • Don’t eat three hours before bedtime
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Sleep with your head raised

If you don’t experience relief from your symptoms after using at least one of these suggestions, we have more options you could consider. Some of these may include prescription-strength antacids or, often as a last result, surgery.

Find relief from acid reflux and GERD symptoms in Northwest Arkansas

The GI doctors at GI Alliance of Arkansas are skilled in diagnosing and treating many GI issues, like varying degrees of acid reflux. If you have GERD, there are several treatments available to you. For more information on how our team of GI doctors can help you find relief from your chronic heartburn, reach out to one of our locations in Northwest Arkansas.

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