Experiencing occasional bouts of acid reflux-the regurgitation of partially digested food or liquid-is common. But when it becomes chronic, occurring more than two times a week, the problem can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated. Conditions can range from respiratory problems like asthma and pneumonia to ulcers and tooth decay. Chronic heartburn can even lead to the development of a precancerous disease of the lining of the esophagus called Barrett's esophagus. This can make you more susceptible to developing esophageal cancer.

Frequent episodes of acid reflux are generally characterized by a burning sensation in the chest or throat and a sour taste in the mouth. Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing or a feeling that food is stuck in the chest or throat. Mild episodes of reflux can often be successfully treated with over-the-counter antacids like Tums, Maalox, and Mylanta, which neutralize the acid in the stomach. Longer lasting H2 blockers including Pepcid, Tagamet or Zantac can reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec OTC provide longer lasting relief by directly blocking stomach production of excessive acid. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and limiting potential acid reflux food triggers like caffeinated and carbonated beverages and fatty, fried or spicy foods can help relieve your symptoms.

However, if the problem persists or gets worse, you need to take medication for longer than two weeks, or if you experience side effects from the OTC medications such as headaches, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe stronger medications to treat your acid reflux condition. If you still can't find relief, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract, for a test called an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. During this test,  a thin, flexible tube is inserted down the throat to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine.

At some point during their pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester, most pregnant women will experience bouts of GERD, often the result of changes in hormone levels and increased pressure on the abdomen, which can sometimes force stomach acids up into the esophagus. Eating several small meals a day instead of three large ones and avoiding spicy and fried foods may relieve symptoms. However, if lifestyle changes aren't effective, pregnant women should talk with their doctor before taking any medications.