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The pain of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can be a frequent and recurring issue for sufferers, but there are a variety of options to help relieve it. Several medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, are available to treat GERD pain. Adding certain foods to one's diet and avoiding others can also help. There are also lifestyle changes that patients can make which often alleviate the pain as well. In extreme cases, surgery may be a final resort to correct the issue.
Many people choose to use medications to manage their GERD pain. Antacids can reduce pain quickly by neutralizing stomach acid. Longer acting drugs such as H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors reduce acid production. All of these medications are readily available for purchase over the counter. If they are not strong enough to control acid reflux pain, doctors may prescribe stronger prescription versions of H-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
A patient's choice of food is often critical when it comes to relieving GERD pain. Many people have certain foods which set off an attack, so avoiding these known triggers is very important. Some common culprits are spicy foods, fried foods, or acidic foods such as citrus or tomato sauce. Eating and drinking certain things have also been shown to help reduce the pain of GERD; perhaps the best known remedy is to drink a glass of milk. Other foods that have helped some sufferers find relief include apple cider vinegar, cumin, and papaya.
Certain lifestyle modifications can also be made to decrease GERD pain. Patients should allow plenty of time for digestion, usually two to three hours, before lying down and should try to keep their head elevated when they do. Eating well, getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce acid reflux; overweight patients should try to lose weight, as extra fat around the stomach can put pressure on it and increase reflux. Tight clothes that put pressure on the stomach should also be avoided. Smoking often makes GERD worse, so smokers are encouraged to quit.
Patients who cannot find relief using other techniques may choose surgery to fix the underlying cause of their GERD. A surgeon may tighten the esophageal sphincter leading into the stomach or stitch up the upper portion of the stomach to create a barrier to the esophagus. This will stop the acid splashing up into the esophagus, and the damage and pain it causes.