Heartburn or Something More?

Dec 21, 2016Health Focus

GERD is a disease that affects 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.”

Now that the holiday season has arrived, many Americans will be eating delicious meals, and potentially overeating.

Many people may start to experience heartburn associated with overeating during the holidays. However, if heartburn, sometimes referred to as acid reflux, occurs more frequently than just around the holidays, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it could potentially be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—a disease that affects one in five adults in the United States.

Causes and Symptoms

GERD is caused by a weak valve that allows acid, bile and stomach contents to flow back from the stomach into the esophagus, creating pain (heartburn) and can often cause damage to the lining of the esophagus. Heartburn is the most common symptom, but not the only one.

Some GERD sufferers experience other symptoms such as hoarseness, a persistent cough, asthma, bad breath, sleep disruption, tooth erosion, and even vomiting. Medications can help with the heartburn symptoms, but do not address the actual cause of GERD—a weak valve.

There is Hope

GERD is a serious disease that can impact every aspect of a person’s life, but there are treatments. Diagnostic testing performed by a healthcare provider specializing in diseases of the esophagus is the only way to definitively diagnose GERD. Those who think they may be suffering from GERD should seek help from a specialist who can provide an accurate diagnosis and discuss the latest treatment options that can give people their lives back.

Get Treated Today

The good news is that GERD is treatable. For most patients, relief comes with dietary changes or medication, although surgery sometimes is necessary. It’s important to note that GERD does not resolve itself, and untreated symptoms can lead to a variety of health complications, so visit your doctor if you think you may be suffering from it. Fortunately, Bingham Memorial Hospital has an exceptional general surgeon who specializes in heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD.

W. Kurt Birkenhagen, MD, focuses on conditions like Barrett’s esophagus, a condition marked by a breakdown in the lining of the esophagus. For more than 35 years, Dr. Birkenhagen has been one of the most trusted and respected surgeons in the eastern Idaho area. He enjoys helping to solve his patients’ medical problems so they can live happier and healthier lives.

To learn more about Dr. Birkenhagen and GERD treatments, please visit our website:

He sees patients in Blackfoot and Pocatello. To schedule a consultation, please call (208) 239-8008.