GERD: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Many people suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a very common and unpleasant condition. This article covers information about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of GERD.
What is GERD?
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as chronic acid reflux) is a condition in which acid-containing contents from your stomach flow back into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach on a regular basis (esophagus).
The acid in the esophagus causes heartburn and other symptoms, as well as possible tissue damage.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning sensation felt behind the breastbone. It worsens when the person lies down or bends over, and it also worsens after eating food.
However, some people have GERD without experiencing heartburn. Instead, they have chest pain, hoarseness in the morning, or difficulty swallowing. You may feel as if you have food stuck in your throat, as if you are choking, or as if your throat is constricted.
A dry cough and bad breath can also be caused by GERD.
Causes of GERD
If you have acid reflux/heartburn more than twice a week for several weeks, take heartburn medications and antacids on a regular basis, and your symptoms persist, you may have GERD.
Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (valve) does not function correctly. Normally, after food enters your stomach, this valve closes tightly. If it relaxes when it shouldn’t, the contents of your stomach rise back up into your esophagus.
Factors that can lead to this include:
- Overweight or obese because there is too much pressure on the abdomen
- Some pregnant women also experience heartburn almost daily because of this increased pressure on the abdomen.
- Taking certain medications, including some asthma medications, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, sedatives, and antidepressants.
- Smoking, and being exposed to second-hand smoke
- Particular types of food (for example, dairy, spicy or fried foods) Eating habits (for example, eating too fast, or too early, too late before bed)
GERD is not a life-threatening or dangerous condition. However, long-term GERD can lead to more serious health issues such as:
This is a condition in which the esophagus becomes inflamed. Esophagitis can cause esophageal ulcers, heartburn, chest pain, bleeding, and swallowing difficulties.
This condition causes the esophagus to narrow, making swallowing difficult.
The cells that line the esophagus can transform into cells that line the intestine. This can progress to cancer.
It is possible to breathe stomach acid into the lungs, which can result in a variety of symptoms such as chest congestion, hoarseness, asthma, chest pain, and pneumonia.
Some Ways to Ease GERD Symptoms at Home
Avoid food triggers
Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) state that common food triggers for GERD include:
- alcoholic drinks
- acidic foods such as citrus fruits
- coffee and other caffeine sources
- spicy foods
- fried or fatty foods.
Watch your meals
During the meals: Eat slowly, have smaller meals more frequently rather than a bigger ones.
You should have the main meal at lunchtime and a lighter meal at dinnertime.
It’s also a good idea to eat dinner at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime, rather than right before bed. The body will have more time to digest the food this way.
Furthermore, you should try to concentrate on eating during meals and avoid using your phone or watching television while eating.
Because gravity helps control reflux, keeping an upright posture for several hours after a meal can help prevent heartburn.
After a meal, you should not engage in any physical activity. This may cause the abdominal muscles to contract, forcing food back up into the esophagus and resulting in heartburn.
According to a 2016 study, there is a link between smoking and GERD symptoms.
The researchers looked at the impact of quitting smoking on people with GERD who were already smokers. They discovered that it significantly reduced symptoms.
As a result, if you smoke, try to quit.
Lose extra weight
Obesity and being overweight put pressure on the abdomen, causing GERD symptoms. As a result, you should lose weight by following a diet and exercise plan to shed extra pounds.
Loosen your belt
Remove your skin-tight jeans. Tight clothing puts additional strain on the abdomen which can lead to heartburn.
Teleconsult a doctor
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Reference: Mayoclinic, CDC, Celevelandclinic, Medical News Today