What could cause frequent dry heaving?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have bouts of dry heaving at times and it hits me all of a sudden with frequent stomach indigestion or acid reflux. I sometimes get bile, but typically I don't throw anything up. I have experienced this for the last five years on and off. What could be the cause?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Dry heaving, indigestion, and acid reflux is usually a condition called GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).  It is quite a common medical problem. You can walk down the aisle of any drug store across the U.S. and see tons of medications to treat acid reflux.  It is basically a problem where a sphincter in your esophagus does not close all the way, so stomach acid goes up into your esophagus,  burning the tissue in there (commonly called "heartburn").

There is plenty of information about this condition on the internet, magazines, and media, so I will not go into specifics regarding the treatments.  In general, they include:

  1. Dietary changes
  2. Sleeping with your head elevated
  3. Losing weight
  4. Medications

Regarding your particular case, your problem sounds on the more severe side.  I would recommend seeing your health care professional to get checked out regarding your symptoms.  Although it does sound like you have acid reflux, you should get examined to be sure nothing else is going on.