What Is the Difference Between GERD and Acid Reflux?


Commonly, adults hear or see the words “GERD” and “acid reflux” and wonder if there are any differences between them or if the two are identical. These conditions can seem to cause the same primary symptom — indigestion (commonly referred to as heartburn); however, there is a little more to it than just heartburn. What, then, differentiates the two?

The GI providers at Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology are able to help you discern between the different gastro conditions so you can better understand your GI and overall health. Our Indianapolis, IN digestive health specialists want you to feel knowledgeable enough about your GI health to make decisions that benefit you.

What is the cause of acid reflux?

When swallowing, your food will move from your esophagus to your stomach through the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). Sometimes, however, the LES will fail to close fully and the acid formed during this step will move back into the esophagus. This backflow of acid causes the sensation many know as “heartburn."

There may be many reasons the LES doesn’t close. This is typically due to weakness in a person’s lower esophageal sphincter. Some explanations for this include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • A diet high in fat or with a lot of spicy foods
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Caffeine consumption

Acid reflux vs. gastroesophageal reflux disease

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

Our Indianapolis, IN gastroenterologists are here to help you understand these symptoms and discern if you are experiencing GERD or a different GI condition. Sometimes it can take trial and error to find a treatment method that helps alleviate acid reflux or GERD symptoms; however, our team is available to aid you during treatment.

How will my GERD be treated?

If you are searching for GERD treatment in Indianapolis, IN, we can try out several treatment methods. To begin, we may look at your current medications and health history to determine if we can adjust some of your meds. Other adjustments we may recommend are:

  • Eat more slowly
  • Drink less caffeine
  • Sleep at an incline
  • Stay sitting up after each meal
  • Don’t eat three hours before going to sleep
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Adjust your diet, including eating foods high in fiber and avoiding foods that include citrus, high fat, or a lot of spice

Should you fail to experience relief after attempting these suggestions, there are more options you may want to try. These include prescribed antacids or, as a last resort, surgery.

Find relief from acid reflux and GERD symptoms in Indianapolis, IN

Our GI specialists at Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology can diagnose and treat several different gastrointestinal disorders, such as moderate-to-severe acid reflux. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease or are looking for a beneficial way to treat your condition, you have several options. For more information on how our team of GI doctors can work with you to find relief from your GERD symptoms, call one of our locations in Indianapolis, IN today.

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