What is GERD Awareness Week?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD, is characterized by heartburn and acid reflux. Raising awareness for this common medical condition has led to the development of GERD Awareness Week, which is internationally recognized in November. During this week, there are opportunities to learn about GERD itself, common treatments, GERD-friendly diets, and the roles that healthcare providers play in managing GERD.
What are the origins of GERD Awareness Week?
The US National Health Observances calendar listed GERD Awareness Week as a national event in 1999. That same year, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) designated GERD Awareness Week for the first time. Each year, GERD Awareness Week takes place in November where health professionals and community members alike come together in raising awareness for GERD.
What exactly is GERD?
The main symptoms of GERD, as previously described, are acid reflux and heartburn. Other associated symptoms include nausea, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath. Many factors contribute to GERD, including the abnormal movement of the esophagus and high amounts of stomach acid being produced. Over time, GERD may cause complications such as esophageal damage, bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, and even certain cancers. There are many options in the treatment of GERD which range from lifestyle changes to over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription drugs.
How can we celebrate GERD Awareness Week?
GERD Awareness Week primarily raises awareness for GERD, which anyone can play a part in. It is likely that healthcare facilities or community settings will set up public campaigns, which the general public can attend or visit for the purposes of self-education. Other health promotion activities such as sharing GERD Awareness Week Posters, brochures, and social media toolkits are also meaningful ways to get involved. Make sure to visit the official IFFGD website for shareable materials and ways to commemorate GERD Awareness Week.
As GERD is also affected by diet, you can strive to make your own diet more GERD-friendly. It is important to realize that a diet high in acidic foods does not cause GERD, but makes pre-existing GERD worse. Foods such as coffee, chocolate, and spicy foods can really exacerbate acid reflux and feelings of heartburn. While it is not necessary to cut these foods out of your diet if you are not already experiencing GERD, there may be opportunities to cook for or dine in with family and friends who do have GERD and gain a better understanding of how their lives are impacted by this medical condition.
There are many medications on the market to treat GERD. Common OTC products such as Tums, Gaviscon, Zantac (now discontinued) and Pepcid help to reduce the amount of stomach acid. Some of these contain ingredients that help with other symptoms of GERD, such as bloating and gas. If you have tried OTC products and they are not working for you, visit your doctor and speak to them about your symptoms. They may end up prescribing you stronger medication!
GERD Awareness Week represents a major step in improving positive health outcomes associated with GERD. By raising awareness, we are able to facilitate further research into diagnosis, lifestyle modifications, drug therapy and much more, which will in turn help to increase the quality of life for those affected by GERD. Make sure to celebrate GERD Awareness Week by seeing if there are relevant events in your community!
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- GERD Awareness Week - About GERD [Internet]. [cited 2021 Nov 25]. Available from: https://aboutgerd.org/living-with-gerd/gerd-awareness-week/
- GERD Awareness Week - IFFGD [Internet]. [cited 2021 Nov 25]. Available from: https://iffgd.org/get-involved/raising-awareness/awareness-months/gerd-awareness-week/
- GERD Awareness Week - November 23-29 [Internet]. National Today. [cited 2021 Nov 25]. Available from: https://nationaltoday.com/gerd-awareness-week/