What's the Difference Between Acid Reflux vs. GERD?


Many adults hear or see the terms “GERD” and “acid reflux” and question if they are the same. On the surface, these conditions can seem to produce the same main symptom — heartburn. There is a great deal to it than simply heartburn, however. What are the differences between these conditions?

The GI doctors at Arizona Digestive Health can help you discern the differences between gastro conditions so you can focus on your gastrointestinal and general health. Our Phoenix, AZ area digestive health specialists want you to feel confident enough about your health to make decisions that benefit you.

What brings about acid reflux?

When swallowing, your food and drink will migrate from your esophagus to your stomach through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Sometimes, however, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to close entirely and lets the acid formed during this process make its way back up into the esophagus. This backflow of acid leads to the “heartburn” feeling many have.

There are various reasons the lower esophageal sphincter can’t close. Often, it results from a loss of strength in the LES. Some causes of this involve:

  • Caffeine consumption
  • Specific medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet
  • A diet full of spicy foods
  • Alcohol consumption

Acid reflux vs. gastroesophageal reflux disease

If you have experienced heartburn more than 2 – 3 times a week or if acid reflux medications don’t reduce your acid reflux, you may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Our Arizona Digestive Health team members are ready to help you better understand your symptoms and determine if you are experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease or a different GI condition. It could take a bit of trial and error to discover the right method of treatment that helps alleviate acid reflux symptoms; however, our GI specialists are ready to aid you.

How can GERD be treated?

When you need treatment for GERD in the Phoenix area, there are several treatment methods we may want to try. Initially, we will review the medications you’re currently taking and your health history to figure out if we can adjust any daily medications. Other solutions we could suggest are:

  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Sleeping with your head raised
  • Make adjustments to your diet to include eating foods high in fiber and steering clear of citrus or high-fat and spicy foods
  • Remain upright after each meal
  • Don’t eat three hours before going to bed
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Eat slowly

If you try these and still experience acid reflux, there are other treatments you may want to consider. These could include prescription-strength antacids or, typically regarded as a last resort, a surgical procedure.

Find relief from GERD and acid reflux symptoms in the Phoenix, AZ area

Our GI specialists at Arizona Digestive Health are available to diagnose and treat a variety of GI disorders, like acid reflux. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease or want to find an effective way to manage your condition, there are options. For more information on how GI specialists can work with you to find relief from your acid reflux, call one of our locations in and around Phoenix, AZ at your earliest convenience.

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