SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Thanksgiving kicks off the season of holiday eating and indulging, so it’s pretty fitting this is also GERD awareness week.

About 20% of people in the U.S. suffer from it, according to a study in the National Library of Medicine.

Even with a number that high, researchers believe most people self-medicate or don’t treat it at all.

The Medical Director of the Heartburn Center inside St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. Atul Maini, says heartburn and GERD are things we should not ignore.

“People have reflux disease so much so that it affects their life and it can also change the lining of inside the esophagus causing cancers in the future.”

Dr. Atul Maini

Some of the signs include regurgitation, burping a lot, and trouble sleeping. There are also pulmonary symptoms caused by reflux where people wake up with a sore throat or cough.

What most of us will experience this Thanksgiving is a temporary acidic episode after a large meal.

However, if you’re dealing with reflux long-term, Dr. Maini urges you to see a doctor, especially if you’re taking medication for longer than three months.

The side effects of being on these medications long-term can be severe.

“Acid is important to absorb calcium from the GI tract. If you’re suppressing acid, calcium does not get absorbed,” said Maini.

One of the more severe side effects of long-term medicating? “There’s about a 20% chance of chronic kidney disease developing from there,” he said.

As for this holiday season, certain foods such as red wine and dark chocolate can make it worse.

Tums may be a temporary fix, but Maini says many people fall into a bad pattern of self-treating.

If you know you have GERD or you know you’ll over-indulge this holiday season, Maini suggests eating a light lunch, putting your dinner on a smaller dish, and eating everything in moderation.

If you’d like to visit the Heartburn Center you can call 866-HRT-BURN or 315-726-7033.