Are you having a recurrent heartburn? If yes, then probably you should see your doctor as you may suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease also known as GERD.
Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus. Reflux means to flow back or return. Therefore, gastroesophageal reflux is the return of the stomach contents back up into the esophagus. GERD affects people of all ages – from infants to older adults.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
It is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus. This backflow (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of the esophagus. GERD occurs when the lower end of the esophagus become weak and not able to open or close properly.
What Are The Causes of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
It is a chronic condition where you can have complaints more than twice a week. It is a quite common problem among the urban population due to a sedentary lifestyle, overeating, etc. Here are some causes of GERD –
- Poor diet
- Bad eating habits
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Lack of exercise
- Consuming certain foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits, caffeine, spicy food, etc.
What Are The Risk Factors of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
Some conditions that increase your risk of GERD are as follows –
- Hiatus hernia – bulging of the upper part of the stomach through the diaphragm
- Using off-label painkillers
What Are The Sign and Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
- Burning in the chest (heartburn) usually after eating
- Regurgitation of food
- Chest pain
- Sour taste of acid when lying down
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Dry coughs
- Sore throat
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Breathing difficulty in severe cases
Most of the signs and symptoms worst during the night while lying down and less in the day time. If you have persistent heartburn for a longer time then you must visit your doctor.
Your doctor may perform a test to confirm your diagnosis of GERD which can measure the acid content of your esophagus. Also, he/she may examine your esophagus for damage to measure muscle contractions in your esophagus or look at your entire upper digestive tract.
How is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Treated?
The first step to treat this disease to change your lifestyle such as changing what you eat or drink. If the complaints persist then your doctor may advise you some medicines such as proton pump inhibitor or histamine – 2 blockers. In the extreme case, the doctor might opt for surgery.
The following lifestyle changes can ease your symptoms:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Do regular exercise
- Eat slowly and at smaller intervals
- Don’t lie down after a meal
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing
Also including certain food in the everyday diet helps in treating GERD:
- Ginger is very useful for digestive issues since ancient times. It acts as an anti-inflammatory. Just drink ginger tea daily to keep your digestive system healthy.
- It contains a large number of probiotics that are helpful for your gut system. It is good to increase healthy bacteria in your gut to keep your guts clean and healthy. It also reduces the frequency of acid reflux.
- Fennel seeds act as a cleanser for your gut system and having anti-bacterial properties to kill bacteria in the stomach. The nutrient of fennel seeds helps in relaxing the stomach walls and thereby prevents acid reflux.
- Oatmeal contains a high amount of fiber which helps to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.
What Are The Complications of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
Narrowing of the esophagus –
Damage to the lower esophagus from stomach acid causes scar formation. The scar tissue narrows the food pathway, leading to problems with swallowing.
Esophageal cancer –
Damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue lining the lower esophagus. These changes are associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
The actual reason is unknown to understand how and why asthma is aggravated by GERD. Maybe due to recurrent irritation of lung nerves, asthma may induce.
Esophageal ulcer –
Stomach acid can cause an injury to tissues in the esophagus, causing an open sore to form. An esophageal ulcer can bleed, cause pain, and make swallowing difficult.
Inflammation and infection of the lungs –
The reflux of liquid into the lungs (called aspiration) often results in coughing and choking. Aspiration, however, also can occur without producing symptoms. With or without these symptoms, aspiration may lead to infection of the lungs and result in pneumonia.
It is a chronic and sometimes life-long health condition to deal with. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can control or cure your symptoms. Left untreated, however, GERD can cause permanent damage to the esophagus.