What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious form of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), which is common. GER occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens spontaneously, for varying periods of time, or does not close properly and stomach contents rise up into the esophagus.
GERD is also called acid reflux or acid regurgitation, because digestive juices -- called acids -- rise up with the food. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach.
When acid reflux occurs, food or fluid can be tasted in the back of the mouth. When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus it may cause a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn or acid indigestion. Occasional GERD is common and does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Persistent reflux that occurs more than twice a week is considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems. People of all ages can have GERD.
Consistent heartburn is a warning sign of acid reflux disease. The feeling creeps up on you and is very unpleasant. You may feel a tinge of pain in the upper chest, just behind the sternum and gradually, the feeling can become nearly intolerable. You find yourself praying than an antacid will help.
Astra Pharmaceutical's states that over one-third of otherwise healthy Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a week. Seven percent experience heartburn as often as once a day. In some cases, the painful sensation is a symptom of a larger problem called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
What are the symptoms of GERD?
The main symptom of GERD in adults is frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion -- burning-type pain in the lower part of the mid-chest, behind the breast bone, and in the mid-abdomen. Most children under 12 years with GERD, and some adults, have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they may experience a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing.
GERD generally occurs after meals, but can sometimes happen during sleep, which signals a more severe condition. The tissue of the esophagus may eventually erode due to exposure to stomach acid. Ulcers and difficulty swallowing may result from this.
Usually, people will turn to antacids to treat these symptoms but if you have GERD, symptoms will continually get worse and the antacids will not help much.
There are several ways you can help treat your GERD with life-style changes. Avoid acidic foods such as oranges and onions and no caffeine or cigarettes is a good start. In addition, avoid chocolate, fatty foods and overeating. These lifestyle modifications should aid in some relief of symptoms but is not enough to treat GERD.
GERD sufferers should always discuss risk factors with their doctors who can devise a treatment plan.
You can bring GERD under control with the aforementioned aid, but unfortunately, it is usually a life-long problem. Often, when one eats the wrong foods they will have a reoccurrence of symptoms.
Common foods that can worsen reflux symptoms include:
- Citrus fruits.
- Drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Fatty and fried foods.
- Garlic and Onions.
- Mint flavorings.
- Spicy foods.
- Tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili, and pizza.
There are medications available to reduce the production of acid in the stomach, which have helped many that must cope with GERD. If you feel you may suffer from GERD, consult your physician for more information.
Other factors that may contribute to GERD include:
A recent study of almost 1000 participants found that a diet that was high in fiber was associated with fewer unpleasant acid reflux symptoms like heartburn or regurgitation. Researchers are not sure exactly why fiber has such a positive effect on acid reflux symptoms, but to be sure you are doing everything you can to manage heartburn, eat plenty of fiber on a daily basis.
Walk and Chew Gum
To keep the burn away, try walking and chewing gum after a meal. Chewing gum for up to an hour after a meal may help soothe heartburn, according to research. Walking after a meal also appears to be beneficial with certain kinds of indigestion. The next time you're having trouble digesting a meal, try doing both. Just avoid peppermint gum; mint may exacerbate heartburn symptoms.
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