What is GERD?
isease, commonly know as GERD or ‘heartburn’, is a clinical condition characterized by a regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. The backflow of acid is caused by a relaxation of the lower esophageal ‘gate’ or sphincter which ordinarily remains closed and serves to keep food on its normal digestive track, moving down into the stomach. Refluxed acid can irritate and potentially damage the delicate lining on the inside of the esophagus. Many individuals experience gastroesophageal reflux at times, but an estimated 5 to 7% of the global population suffers reflux chronically. Men and women between the ages of 45-64 most often are diagnosed with GERD, though the disorder can also affect younger populations. Individuals with asthma, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, developmental disabilities and sliding hiatal hernias are most susceptible to experiencing reflux. Other factors including alcohol consumption, overweight, pregnancy and smoking can also contribute to GERD as well as certain foods and beverages.
Signs & Symptoms
Though GERD can sometimes present itself without any symptoms, most individuals frequently experience heartburn, an uncomfortable burning sensation behind the breastbone, most commonly occurring after a meal. Such symptoms are often dismissed and GERD may remain undiagnosed for quite sometime, allowing the disease, in some cases, to cause significant medical problems.
- Regurgitation of gastric juices
- Asthma, coughing, intermittent wheezing
- Chest pain, throat constriction
- Vocal cord inflammation, hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent heartburn, acid indigestion
Tips for Treatment
If your physician has diagnosed you with GERD, there are many treatment methods that may be combined with medication to help alleviate symptoms.
Positive Lifestyle Changes
- If you are overweight, weight loss will help to relieve abdominal pressure
- Relax at mealtimes, eat slowly to avoid swallowing air and stomach distention
- Eat small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day
- Remain upright for 2 hours after meals, light walking often helps
- Avoid eating for 2-3 hours before bed
- Avoid wearing tight clothing around your abdomen such as tight jeans and elastic waist bands which can increase gastric pressure
- Sleep with your head elevated
- Stop smoking, tobacco products aid in relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter and can cause digestive problems
Helpful Dietary Changes
- Avoid trigger foods such as: high-fat, fried foods, cream sauces, gravies, mayonnaise, fatty meats, pastries, nuts, potato chips, ice cream, butter and margarine
- Avoid carminatives, foods that decrease lower esophageal pressure such as: chocolate, peppermint, regular and decaf coffee, pepper, onions, garlic, spearmint and alcohol
- Avoid acidic foods such as: carbonated beverages, tomato juice/sauce, pizza, spicy foods, and citrus fruits and juices
- Do choose a low-fat, healthful diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources
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