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The difference between Acid Reflux, GERD, Reflux Esophagitis, and Frequent Heartburn?

What is the difference between acid reflux, GERD, reflux esophagitis, and frequent heartburn?

Acid reflux is the physical event of acid leaving the stomach and entering the esophagus.

There are many reasons the lower esophageal sphincter allows acid reflux. These include

  • A transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation (TLESR). TLESRs are normal and occur spontaneously throughout the day, like when burping, and can allow acid to escape the stomach.

  • A weak lower esophageal sphincter. Unlike a TLESR, a weak lower esophageal sphincter is abnormal. It may not close tightly enough, allowing acid upward.

  • Stomach pressure, either from wearing too-tight clothing or from excess stomach fat, can put pressure on the stomach and force acid upwards.

  • Foods that cause the sphincter to relax, like peppermint and chocolate – so if you believe you have acid reflux, you may want to re-think your after-dinner mints.

GERD Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is often characterized by frequent heartburn, but can also include acid regurgitation, reflux esophagitis/erosive esophagitis, indigestion/upset stomach, chronic cough, laryngitis, new or worsening asthma, and disrupted sleep. If you think you may have GERD, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Reflux esophagitis is the irritation and inflammation of the esophagus as the result of acid reflux and GERD. While treatable, untreated reflux esophagitis is a potentially serious condition that can lead to erosions and/or narrowing of the esophagus (strictures). For more information, consult your doctor.

Frequent heartburn is heartburn occurring two or more days a week. Prilosec OTC may be used to treat frequent heartburn. Read our article on .

How do you manage your frequent heartburn?

If you know what causes your frequent heartburn, try removing those particular triggers first. If you are unsure what could be causing your frequent heartburn, here are some treatment tips.


  • Avoid overeating

  • Avoid spicy, greasy, and fatty foods

  • Avoid alcohol


  • Don’t eat for at least three hours before bed

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight

  • Quit smoking if you’re a smoker

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing

  • Sleep on an angle (for example, elevate the head of the bed) so that gravity helps keep acid in the stomach


Many people’s frequent heartburn can’t be controlled with diet or lifestyle changes alone. Talk to your doctor about medications that would work for you.