Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
1.What is Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease commonly known as GERD is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which is the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. This condition occurs when the stomach acid or bile flows back into the esophagus, the tube connecting your mouth and the stomach. This acid reflux or return of the acid could irritate the lining of the esophagus. If the symptoms of acid reflux occurs more than twice a week it could indicate that you have GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms
The most common symptoms of GERD are:
- Heartburn is also known as acid indigestion. It feels like a burning sensation in your chest which moves to the neck and throat. This sensation usually occurs after eating and may worsen when you try to lie down or at night. Many people say that it feels like the food is coming back into the mouth and it leaves a bitter or acid taste.
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Chest pain
- You feel like there is a lump in your throat
- Regurgitation of food or a sour liquid
- Bitter taste
- Discomfort in the upper abdomen
- Dry cough
If you suffer from night time acid reflux you may also experience symptoms like
- Worsening asthma
- Chronic cough
- Disrupted sleep
Gastroesophageal reflux disease risk factors
Some of the risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of GERD are
- Hiatal Hernia or bulging at the top of your stomach up to the diaphragm
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Dietary choices
- Connective tissue disorders
Some of the factors that can aggravate the symptoms of acid reflux are
- Smoking- studies show that smoking relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)
- Eating late at night or eating large meals
- Lying down or sleeping immediately after eating
- Certain foods and beverages like chocolate, peppermint and fried or fatty foods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Coffee or soda
- Taking certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
Gastroesophageal reflux disease causes
The lower esophageal sphincter or LES which is a circular band of muscle at the end of the esophagus relaxes and opens when you swallow your food and then it tightens and closes afterward. The acid reflux occurs when the LES is not functioning properly and it does not tighten and close allowing digestive juices and other contents from the stomach to come into the esophagus. When this happens continuously the constant backwash of acid from the stomach irritates the lining of the esophagus, eventually leading to inflammation.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease diagnosis
If your doctor feels that you may be suffering from GERD, they will conduct a physical exam and review the symptoms that you may be experiencing. Some of the gastroesophageal reflux disease tests are:
- Upper endoscopy- The doctor uses an endoscope (a thin tube with a camera and light) down your throat. They use this to examine the inside of the esophagus and stomach. This test helps determine inflammation of the esophagus or other complications.
- Barium Swallow- You are given a solution of barium to swallow and an X-ray is done to examine the upper digestive tract.
- Esophageal Manometry- in this test a flexible tube is threaded to the esophagus that helps to measure the strength of the esophageal muscles.
- Esophageal pH monitoring- in this test a monitor is inserted into the esophagus and sees if stomach acid enters it.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease treatment
For most cases of GERD your doctor might first suggest changes to your diet and lifestyle to help relieve the symptoms. To add to this the doctor might prescribe over the counter medications such as
- Antacids which neutralize stomach acids- While antacids provide temporary and quick relief these are not useful in healing an inflamed esophagus. Overuse of certain antacids can lead to other complications like kidney problems and diarrhea.
- Medications that reduce the production of acid- This medication is known as H-2-receptor blockers. They don’t act as quickly as antacids but they provide longer relief and can decrease the acid production in the stomach for up to 12 hours.
- Medications that heal the esophagus and block the production of acid- These are known as proton pump inhibitors. They are stronger than just acid blockers and they give the esophagus time to heal.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease prevention
Some of the ways to prevent recurrence of acid reflux are
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Elevate the head of your bed
- Chew your food thoroughly so that it aids in digestion
- Avoid foods or beverages that can trigger acid reflux
- Don’t lie down immediately after eating