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Do You Have GERD Symptoms or a Stress Ulcer? Take This Quiz to Find Out!

GERD and stress ulcers have very similar symptoms. Take this quiz to determine what you might have to help you with your course of treatment.

A young woman resting her head on a sofa as she was feeling gerd symptoms

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a type of chronic acid reflux. Approximately, 20% of adults in the U.S. have this common condition that occurs when the stomach acids come back up into your mouth and esophagus. This fluid causes irritation to the lining of the esophagus and tissue damage. A burning, painful sensation in your stomach is one of the most common GERD symptoms.

Stress ulcers, on the other hand, can occur quickly due to an imbalance in the body’s pH, physiological stress, or the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. This can also cause burning pain and infection in the upper stomach. The symptoms of both can be quite similar — you might be wondering if you have a stress ulcer or GERD. Take our short quiz to better understand these two common conditions and help you feel better.

Understanding GERD Symptoms and a Stress Ulcer

A man feels a burning sensation on his abdomen area due to gerd
A common burning sensation can be the cause of numerous stomach ailments.

There are numerous reasons why you might have a stomachache. Take our quiz to identify if you are experiencing GERD symptoms or a stress-induced ulcer.

Learn If You Have GERD or a Stress Ulcer

A woman feels burning and bitter aftertaste in her mouth as she was exercising outdoor
Whether it’s stress ulcer or GERD symptoms, both conditions can interfere with your daily routine.

If your answers are mostly A’s 

You most likely have GERD. This includes experiencing symptoms that are occurring at least twice a week. They can be moderate to severe, lasting for a week and then going away. They can also come back after a period of no pain or discomfort.

Other common GERD symptoms:

  • Heartburn or chest pain
  • Issues with swallowing
  • Sour taste in your mouth
  • Food comes up often in form of liquid or a harsh aftertaste
  • Lump in your throat
  • Vomiting

According to physician Chu I Ta, the Chief Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician at Real Health Medical clinic in Singapore, there are three groups of people who are commonly diagnosed with this condition.

First Group: Stressed-out perfectionists

A man looking at his watch as he was walking in a hurry to go to work
A fast-paced, busy life can also contribute to your GERD symptoms.

The first group includes people who live a fast-paced lifestyle such as perfectionists and workaholics. Over time, this leads to overactive sympathetic nerves and a malfunction of the intestine peristalsis motion.

TCM believes that stressed-out people or those undergoing any negative emotional changes can have an imbalance and stagnation of liver qi (vital life energy), which is essential for regulating the digestive system.

“This group of people is suffering from what TCM practitioners would diagnose as liver-stomach disharmony and a disruption to stomach qi circulation,” explains physician Chu. To relieve GERD symptoms, it’s important to develop good eating habits and practice stress relief. Focusing on your food consumption, resting after eating a meal, deep breathing, and brisk walking can help alleviate acid reflux.

In addition, TCM highlights the use of TCM ingredients like ark shell (瓦楞子, walengzi), oyster shell (牡蛎, muli), chayote (佛手, foshou), Corydalis Rhizoma (延胡索, yanhusuo) and toosendan fruit(川楝子, chuanlianzi) to regulate liver qi and promote harmony between the liver and stomach. You can also promote a healthy gut by taking gastro-immune probiotics.

Second group: Habitual meal skippers

The second group of people prone to GERD has irregular meals daily. This group commonly skips breakfast and overindulges during the day. They also, typically, eat a heavy meal right before bedtime. They probably also eat spicy, sweet, or high-fat foods, which can provoke gastric acid secretion disorders and increase the digestive secretion burden on the stomach. Consequently, food and gastric acid stay in the stomach longer and stir up tension in the lower esophageal sphincter. 

Bile is responsible for the digestion of oily foods. Excessive bile secretion occurs when you consume large amounts of oily and greasy food, leaving a bitter taste in a person’s mouth.

To improve digestion, consume foods like black fungus, Chinese yam, and lotus root. These foods, according to TCM, support the production of the gastrointestinal mucosa and may also reduce the cytopathic effect — structural changes in host cells due to viral invasion — of gastric acid irritation. 

Third group: Chronic constipation sufferers

The third group of people who are at risk of developing GERD is those with chronic constipation. Long-term constipation disrupts intestinal pressure, pushes compressed food back to the stomach, and triggers the occurrence of acid reflux. Generally, exercise is fundamental for promoting gastrointestinal motility, preventing long hours of sitting and resolving constipation and obesity. 

TCM categorizes constipation into two distinct syndromes — excessive and deficient (blood or qi deficiency). The use of herbs like Chinese peony (白芍, baishao), Citrus aurantium (枳实, zhishi), Houpoea Officinalis (厚朴, houpo) and rhubarb (大黄, dahuang) can help to alleviate excessive syndrome.

Meanwhile, herbs like Astragalus (黄芪haungqi), Tangshen (党参Dangshen), Atractylodes macrocephala (白术, baizhu) and poria (茯苓, fuling) can treat qi deficiency syndrome.

You can also attenuate a blood deficiency syndrome, with herbs like Prunus perscia (桃仁, taoren), Angelica Sinensis (当归, danggui), and Notopterygium incisum (羌活, qianghuo). 

Interestingly, children can also experience GERD. Typically, this is the result of an immature digestive system, an increase in pressure below the esophagus, and potential factors that prevent the relaxation of the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus.

Obesity, overeating, oily and spicy foods, and caffeinated beverages can also contribute to GERD in kids. Some of the most common symptoms of GERD in children are difficulty sleeping, heartburn, abdominal pain, and vomiting episodes.

Other Ways to Treat GERD Symptoms

The most common treatments for GERD are over-the-counter medications like antacids or H-2 receptor blockers. A doctor might use an endoscope to examine your esophagus and stomach, conduct a probe test, or take an X-ray to determine the course of treatment. Prescriptions might be the course of treatment as well as surgery, depending on the case.

If your answers are mostly B’s

You are most likely experiencing stress ulcers. TCM perceives stress ulcers to be severe inflammation of the upper stomach. This leads to sores in the lining of the stomach and the intestines.

Stress ulcers are caused by changes in the body’s pH and overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Additionally, if you are experiencing a stress ulcer, stay away from acidic and spicy, sweet, deep-fried, or high-fat foods, which can irritate the lining of the esophagus.

According to TCM practices, good eating habits are crucial. Focus on the act of eating and chewing and try not to talk when you eat. In addition, you can enjoy a cup of tea or take a brisk walk after eating to help with digestion.

A collage of zhong wan, tian shu, and zu san li acupoints for treating stress ulcers and preventing GERD
Stimulating these three acupoints can alleviate gut discomfort and prevent GERD.

Physician Chu notes that stimulating acupoints like Zusanli (ST36, 足三里), Tianshu (ST25, 天枢), and Zhongwan (RN 12, 中脘) daily may help reverse stomach distension and reduce the risk of GERD. However, you should only use herbal formulations or ingredients that a TCM practitioner prescribes.

Other common stress ulcer symptoms:

  • Dull or burning pain in the upper stomach
  • Stomach swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Pain that gets worse when you eat

Other Ways to Treat Stomach Ulcer

If your situation does not get better, see a doctor. They might have to use an endoscope to view your gastrointestinal tract. Some forms of traditional treatment they might suggest include taking medications like proton pump inhibitors or histamine-blocker drugs.

Knowing the difference between GERD symptoms and stress ulcers are a significant step to helping person alleviate the pain and discomfort they experience. Know someone who is suffering? Pass this quiz along so they can learn more about these common issues and how to treat them using both TCM and traditional methods.


  1. Mayo Clinic. 2021. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). [Accessed on December 20, 2021]
  2. Medical News Today. 2018. What to know about stress ulcers. [Accessed on December 20, 2021]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 2018. GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux). [Accessed on December 20, 2021]

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