Your doctor may be able to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, from your description of symptoms. The doctor may also suggest tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, to monitor the degree of damage, or to determine the best treatment for you.
The three main tests used when GERD is suspected or known are esophageal pH monitoring, endoscopy, and manometry. With pH monitoring, the doctor measures the amount of acid in the esophagus over a 24-48 hour period. This test...
Another recent study offers somewhat reassuring news: If you lose that
excess weight, it may be one of few lifestyle changes you'll need to make to
find heartburn relief. Yes, you might be able to keep sprinkling those hot
pepper flakes on your pizza!
Heartburn, a burning, painful feeling felt around the middle of your chest,
affects about 60% of people at some time each year.
That discomfort is caused when stomach juices, full of acid, flow backward,
up into your esophagus. At the root of the problem is the lower esophageal
sphincter. When this muscular ring is too relaxed -- or not working correctly
-- it can't keep stomach acid in its place.
But heartburn isn't just about the discomfort. If severe or persistent --
and left untreated -- it can lead to the more serious condition of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). And that in turn can boost your risk of
esophageal cancer or ulcers of the esophagus.
Weight Gain and Heartburn Risk
While medications are readily available to treat heartburn, lifestyle
changes are likely to be advised first. That's where your weight comes in.
"Any excess body fat gives you excess risk for having heartburn,"
says Brian C. Jacobson, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine and a
gastroenterologist at Boston University Medical Center, Massachusetts.
Exactly why this is true isn't certain, but one speculation is that surplus
fat around the belly causes increased pressure against your stomach, causing
fluid to rise up.
"We can say for sure that men and women have a higher risk of heartburn
when they are obese [compared to those of normal weight]," Jacobson says.
But gaining just a bit of weight, even if your BMI still falls within the
normal range, can boost your heartburn risk, too, reports Jacobson and
colleagues in The New England Journal of Medicine.