DOVER — Gastroesophageal Reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux or GERD, affects about a third of Americans. That is approximately 39,000 citizens of Tuscarawas County alone.

"Left untreated, longstanding chronic GERD has been linked to complications such as peptic strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer," said Blair Holder, MD, gastroenterologist and heartburn physician at Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital’s Heartburn Treatment Center.

"Common symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation, and non-cardiac chest pain. Other symptoms may include chronic dry cough, unexplained long-standing sore throat, frequent belching, and a feeling of food getting stuck in your throat," Dr. Holder said.

If you suffer from heartburn two or more times per week you may have GERD. If you are self-medicating with over-the-counter reflux medications for GERD symptoms twice a week or more, you should consult with your doctor or consider a visit to the Heartburn Center at Union Hospital. A doctor’s referral is not required. For details, contact the Heartburn Treatment Center at 330-308-3595.

If you’re diagnosed with GERD, there are a variety of treatment options that could help reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

The week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 19-25, is "GERD Awareness Week" and provides for an excellent time to consider if you or a family member is exhibiting symptoms of GERD.

If you suffer from GERD, some common lifestyle changes may help you better manage your symptoms during the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond:

• Pace yourself. Avoid overeating and opt instead for more frequent, smaller meals.

• Avoid your triggers. Coffee, and fatty, spicy, and fried foods are often the problem.

• Eat early. Avoid food and beverages two to four hours before bed.

• Raise the head of your bed. Bed blocks or foam wedges can help.

• Avoid nicotine by quitting smoking. Help is available from many sources, including the American Lung Association online at www.lung.org/stop-smoking.

• Increase healthy habits such as walking, exercise, eating smart, and drinking less alcohol.

Information about Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital and all of its services available to the community is available on the hospital website at www.unionhospital.org.