The Fast Facts on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Every year around the week of Thanksgiving, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) hosts GERD Awareness Week.
The Fast Facts on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Every year around the week of Thanksgiving, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) hosts GERD Awareness Week. GERD awareness week aims to educate people on the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease and encourage those with symptoms to consult their physicians.


What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid flows backward – into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (the esophagus). This process is called acid reflux. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “acid reflux happens because a valve at the end of your esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter, doesn’t close properly when food arrives at your stomach.”

Most people experience acid reflux and heartburn from time to time, especially after eating heavy meals or lying down after eating. But experiencing acid reflux/heartburn more than twice a week for several weeks may mean you’ve developed GERD.


What are Symptoms of GERD?

  • Heartburn
    • The most common symptom of GERD
    • Feels like burning in your chest that begins behind the breastbone and moves upward toward the throat
    • Leaves an acid or bitter taste in the back of the mouth
  • Belching
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Wearing down of tooth enamel due to stomach acid entering the mouth
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Difficulty swallowing


Who Develops GERD?

Anyone can develop GERD. It occurs across every age group and ethnicity. In fact, it’s estimated that about 20% of the U.S. population struggles with the digestive disorder, but many people experiencing GERD symptoms don’t seek medical help because they assume their symptoms are normal.


What Causes GERD?

In short, GERD is caused by chronic acid reflux. This acid reflux is due to a weakened lower esophageal valve. If this valve relaxes when it shouldn’t, stomach contents (including stomach acid) rise back up into the esophagus.

Several factors can lead to a weakened lower esophageal valve, including:

  • Smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Medications for asthma, high blood pressure and allergies, painkillers, sedatives, and anti-depressants
  • Too much pressure on the abdomen, especially in pregnant women
  • A hiatal hernia, where the upper part of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm


What Increases My Chance of Developing GERD?

Conditions that are proven to increase your risk include:

  • Obesity
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Delayed stomach emptying


Can I Prevent GERD?

By preventing chronic acid reflux, you may be able to prevent GERD. The following tips are not guaranteed to prevent acid reflux 100% of the time but can help you manage acid reflux.

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
    • This should be a plan made between you and your doctor
  • Eat small, frequent meals instead of 3 large meals a day
  • Reduce your intake of foods that can make acid reflux worse
  • Sit upright while eating and avoiding lying down immediately after eating
  • Avoid eating before bedtime
  • Avoid wearing clothing that is tight in the belly area, as they can squeeze your stomach and push acid into the esophagus
  • Avoid smoking
  • If your doctor prescribes acid-reducing medications, take them as directed



GERD is a treatable ailment for most people but is a serious condition that can lead to significant problems if left untreated. If you suspect you may be suffering from GERD, schedule an appointment with your doctor. To learn more about gastroesophageal reflux disease, visit or the Cleveland Clinic’s page on GERD.


Get in Touch

Contact - For Individuals

Or call 888-636-7119


Get in Touch

Contact - For Businesses

Or call 888-636-7119


Get in Touch

If you have a question about a specific member and/or needs request, please call the number on the back of the member’s UHF membership card.

For more general inquiries, call 877-987-1233.


Get in Touch

Contact - For Agents
Or call 800-921-4505, select option 3