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Posts Tagged ‘GERD Awareness Week’

November 21-27 is GERD Awareness Week. By Our Student Pharmacist, Khoi Dang.

The upcoming week, November 21 to 27, is GERD Awareness Week, so I want to give you some information about GERD.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or chronic reflux disease) is a condition where acid in your stomach leaks back to the esophagus (the tube in your throat) causing a burning sensation (heart burn). If this happens for a long period of time, the esophagus will be damaged.

GERD is usually caused by the damaged esophageal sphincter, which can not close as it is supposed to, creating a back flow of stomach acid.


Keep in mind that having heart burn or acid reflux does not mean that you have GERD, since everybody will experience heart burn now and then. However, if you experience heart burn more than twice weekly, discuss with your doctor since that may be a sign for GERD.

GERD is very common. About 20% of the US population has GERD.

Some risk factors of getting GERD are:

  • Age: >40 years
  • Obese or overweight
  • Pregnant
  • Smoking (including secondhand smoke)
  • Medications that cause GERD:
    • Iron supplements
    • Potassium
    • Antibiotics: especially tetracyclines and clindamycin
    • Bisphosphonates (osteoporosis medications) which include:
      • alendronate (Fosamax)
      • ibandronate (Boniva)
      • risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia)

Symptoms of GERD include:


***Keep in mind that people often confuse the chest pain from a heart attack with that from heart burn. The image above from the University of Washington Medicine does a very good job of comparing the symptoms of heart burn and heart attack.

Treatment options:

  • Lifestyle modification:
    • Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese.
    • Elevate your head during sleep by placing a foam wedge or extra pillows under your head and upper back to incline your body and raise your head off your bed 6 to 8 inches.
    • Have the last meal of the day about two hours before bedtime.
    • Quit smoking, if you smoke.
    • Reduce consumption of foods that can cause GERD including:
      • acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes
      • alcoholic drinks
      • chocolate
      • coffee and other sources of caffeine
      • high-fat foods
      • mint
      • spicy foods
    • Take medications that help with heart burn and reduce acid:
      • Antacids: mild heart burn can be relieved by taking antacids; however, antacids should not be used on a regular basis without the advice of doctors. Antacids could decrease the absorption of some medications such as levothyroxine, ciprofloxacin, etc…, so they should be taken about two hours apart from these medications.
      • H2 blockers: famotidine (Pepcid) is preferred over cimetidine (Tagamet) because it has fewer drug interactions. These medications could help lower the amount of acid in your stomach.
      • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) including pantoprazole (Protonix), omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid): These medications could lower the acid in your stomach much better than H2 blockers; however, they need about 2-3 days until you feel the difference. PPIs should not be taken for more than 14 days unless instructed otherwise by your doctor. Studies have shown that taking PPIs for a long period of time could increase the risk of fracture and clostridium difficile (C. diff ) infections.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call any of our friendly pharmacists. We are more than happy to answer any questions.



GERD Awareness Week is November 22-28.


GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, but if you have it, GERD also stands for upset stomach, heartburn, belching, acid rising up into your throat and choking you, and an aversion to certain foods that might bring on an attack. GERD can also lead to inflamed gums, erosion of tooth enamel, and a chronic sore throat.

One in five people (or about 21 million Americans) is affected by GERD, spending $7.6 billion annually to help treat the disease.

Every year during the week of Thanksgiving, appropriate since we all tend to overeat during this holiday, GERD Awareness Week takes place. This year it falls from November 22-28.

Joe and I know all about GERD, as Joe has been popping antacids since he was a teenager. He has also been taking medicines such as Prilosec and Pepcid for years. These medications led him to have a severe case of anemia and made us very aware that while he needed something for the GERD, he also needed something to combat the side effects caused by the medicines he was using.

The medications, acid blockers such as proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium) and H2 blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Axid), that are used to treat GERD are serious “drug muggers” since they alter the pH or acidity of the stomach. Remember, a “drug mugger,” according to author and pharmacist Suzy Cohen, is a medication that robs your body of necessary nutrients and therefore causes a whole host of side effects.

GERD medications, because they change the acidity in the gut, can deplete your body of most important nutrients and lead to a ton of health problems. These risks can include:

  • Heart disease
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • High blood pressure

We carry a line of supplements in the pharmacy called Replenish. There is a specific Replenish supplement made just for people taking PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) and H2 antagonists. The supplement is called PPI/H2 Complete and it contains vitamin B12, magnesium, calcium, folic acid, beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, zinc, and chromium.

To find out more about PPI/H2 Complete, go HERE.

There is also a nice article on the Replenish web site about acid reflux medications and the impact they have on your body. You can read that article HERE.

And don’t forget, stop in the pharmacy throughout the month of November and enter the raffle to win Pharmacist Suzy Cohen’s book, Drug Muggers, so you can learn even more about how to combat the drugs robbing your body of nutrients.

Besides combatting the side effects of the GERD medicines, there are other things you can do to manage the GERD symptoms as the holidays approach. The flyer below lists “15 Tips to Manage Your Symptoms this Holiday.”

Several of the mentioned tips Joe already does, because they help him prevent acid reflux and a miserable night of pain. His favorites from the list would be:

  • Schedule an earlier meal. This was a problem in the early days of the pharmacy when Joe sometimes wouldn’t get home until 8 pm or later. It is also a worry when he has late meetings. As long as Joe eats early, he usually doesn’t have to worry about acid reflux overnight.
  • Nix the juice. Orange juice really gets Joe’s GERD in motion. That is a problem, because he loves orange juice.
  • Substitue water for soda. Joe does this most of the time. He drinks so much water, we call him a camel.
  • Stay awake. Once the symptoms of GERD start (acid coming up in the throat), Joe has to get up and sit in a chair. Lying down only makes things worse.

To read all the other tips, scroll down to the info graph at the bottom of the posting.

For more information on GERD, visit the Digestive Health Alliance web site HERE.

You can also visit the About GERD website HERE.

For other helpful tips LIKE the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) on Facebook HERE.


GERD Infograph 2015