Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation of the esophagus.

The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. Esophagitis can be painful and can make it hard to swallow.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is the most common cause of esophagitis.

When you have GERD, stomach acid and juices flow backward into your esophagus which can irritate the esophagus.

Other possible causes of esophagitis include hiatal hernia, radiation, allergies, infection, certain medications, vitamin and mineral supplements such as vitamin C, iron and/or potassium.

A physician can diagnose esophagitis and prescribe the correct treatment plan.

Initially, the physician will perform a physical exam and review pertinent medical history and from there can perform additional testing for confirmation.

These tests can include, but are not limited to upper endoscopy, esophageal biopsy and the upper GI series with barium swallow.

Symptoms of esophagitis include heartburn, painful or trouble swallowing food or liquids, mild chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain.

The treatment needed depends on what is causing the esophagitis.

If you have esophagitis caused by acid reflux or GERD, you likely will need to change your diet and lose weight if needed

Medications can help control the symptoms associated with esophagitis; keep in mind, a change in diet is an effective complement to medicinal treatment.

Begin with a few basic diet changes and communicate your progress to your physician and dietitian. Suggestions include:

• Eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.

• After eating, wait 2 to 3 hours before lying down.

• Avoid late-night snacking.

• Steer away from hard foods like nuts and raw vegetables.

• Chocolate, mint and alcohol can make GERD worse as these relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

• Avoid spicy foods and foodswhich have excessive acid such as tomatoes, oranges and coffee.

• If your symptoms are worse after eating a certain food, stop eating the food to see if symptoms resolve.

• Consume soft foods such as applesauce, cooked cereals and smoothies.

• Lose weight if needed — a five- or 10-pound weight loss can help.

• Stop smoking.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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