GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease can come about when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to shut properly and contents from the stomach reflux, or leak back, into the esophagus. The sphincter of the LES is made up of a ring of muscle tissues that separates the esophagus and the stomach. It serves as a valve to allow food and fluids from the esophagus to enter into the stomach and immediately shuts when all these materials pass through the stomach.
When stomach contents and acid that were refluxed touches the lining of the esophagus, they cause a sensation known as heartburn which is a feeling of burning in the throat or chest. The refluxed material may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, which we know of as acid indigestion. It is normal to experience heartburn from time to time. But when this experience occurs more than two times a week, this condition can be diagnosed as GERD which eventually can result in far worse health issues.
Both male and female and people of all ages can suffer from GERD.
Acid regurgitation and heartburn are the main symptoms of GERD. There have been GERD sufferers who do not experience heartburn at all but instead experience swallowing difficulties, hoarseness in the morning, or feel pain in the chest. Some may feel a tightening in their throat or feel like choking, or feel like they have food stuck in their throat. Bad breath and a dry cough are also some of the symptoms of GERD.
GERD in Children
Several studies indicate that infants and children experience GERD symptoms more commonly than is thought but they’re often overlooked. The symptoms of GERD in these young individuals include respiratory problems, repeated coughing, and vomiting. The undeveloped digestive systems of children are often to blame. The good news is that most babies who experience GERD have complete resolution of their problem by the time they reach one year of age. It is still advisable, however, to consult with your child’s physician if the condition happens frequently or it leads to discomfort. The doctor may suggest some basic steps to help the child avoid reflux, such as keeping the infant in an upright position for 30 minutes after feeding or burping the baby a number of times during feeding. For older children, the physician may suggest staying away from:
-Fatty and fried foods
-Acidic foods such as tomatoes and oranges
-Spicy foods like chili or pizza
-Peppermint and chocolate
-Sodas that have caffeine in them
It may also help to not eat any more food two to three hours before going to bed. It may be good for the child to sleep with his/her head raised. The doctor may prescribe medications if these recommendations do not work. On very few occasions, surgery may be required on the child.
The Causes of GERD
Scientists still have no explanation as to why GERD really occurs although one contributing factor may be hiatal hernia. This type of hernia happens when the stomach’s upper section is higher than the diaphragm, which is the muscle tissue that separates the chest from the abdomen. One of the functions of the diaphragm is to aid the LES in preventing stomach acid from going back and rising to the esophagus. If a person has a hiatal hernia, the acid may have an easier time escaping and rising to the esophagus. So, we now can see that a hiatal hernia can be a factor that causes reflux. People of any age and sex can develop a hiatal hernia.
Some of the contributing factors for GERD include:
Instances of reflux can also come about from the eating or drinking of certain things including:
-Tomato-based foods such as pizza, chili, and spaghetti sauce
-Onions and garlic
-Drinks containing caffeine
Treatments for GERD
If you think you are suffering from heartburn or any GERD symptoms, you need to talk to your doctor, particularly a gastroenterologist or one who treats disorders of the intestines or stomach. Treatment may include surgery, drugs, or lifestyle changes depending on the severity of your condition.
Your physician may suggest that you take drugs that help the muscles empty your stomach, or ones that will inhibit acid production or across-the-counter antacids, which you can purchase without a prescription.
Antacids – Riopan, Rolaids, Pepto-Bismol, Mylanta, Maalox, and Alka-Seltzer
Calcium carbonate antacids – Alka-2, titralac, and Tums, Titralac
H2 blockers – Zantac 75 (ranitidine), Axid AR (nizatidine), Pepcid AC (famotidine), and Tagamet HB (cimetidine).
PPIs (Proton pump inhibitors) – Nexium (esomeprazole), Aciphex (rabeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole).
Prokinetics which is another group of drugs, can help make the stomach empty faster and reinforce the sphincter. Prokinetics can include Reglan (metoclopramide) and Urecholine (bethanechol). The function of the digestive tract can be enhanced with Metoclopramide; however, its usefulness is limited by the frequent side effects of this drug.
Changes in Lifestyle
1. Raise the head of your bed by six to 8 inches. You can do this by placing wood blocks under the bedposts; using pillows to raise your head may not be enough.
2. Do not lie down three hours after a meal.
3. Wear loose-fitting clothes
4. Consume small meals
5. If required, lose weight
6. Stop drinking alcohol
7. Stop smoking
1. The most common symptoms of GERD are acid indigestion or heartburn. People experiencing acid indigestion two times a week may likely be suffering from GERD.
2. Other telltale signs of GERD include pain in the chest, burning in the mouth, a sensation that food is stuck in your throat. And even without heartburn, you can still be suffering from GERD.
3. GERD may cause repeated coughing, vomiting, and other respiratory problems in children and babies. After their first birthday, most babies out grow the condition.
4. It is time to consult with your doctor, if you have been taking antacids for more than 14 days. Most doctors are trained to treat GERD. If you want to be treated by a specialist talk to a gastroenterologist, who is a physician who treats problems of the intestines and stomach.
5. Physicians often recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to alleviate the heartburn symptoms. GERD sufferers may also need drugs. Surgery can be considered for very serious cases.
Research about GERD
As mentioned before, scientists do not know why and how GERD develops. Many things can bring about this condition and studies are presently being done on many levels to try to resolve this mystery. The factors that increase the risk for GERD are being studied as well as the conditions that aggravate GERD including bronchitis and asthma.
Contributory factors to GERD such as hiatal hernia continue to be explored and debated. This topic is quite complex because there are GERD sufferers without a hiatal hernia and people with hiatal hernia but do not suffer from acid reflux.
More studies need to be done regarding the role of Helicobacter pylori bacterium. The low rates of certain gastric cancers and peptic ulcer are mainly due to our ability to kill H. pylori bacteria. However, cases of cancers of the esophagus, Barrett’s esophagus, and GERD have been on the rise. Scientists speculate whether H. pylori may actually help in preventing GERD. This question will be answered by future research works regarding GERD.
Herbal and Nutritional Treatments for GERD
1. Sai Mei An is a type of Chinese herbal antacid. It can alleviate and soothe the unwanted symptoms of GERD.
2. Clothing – If you have GERD avoid do not wear clothes that adds pressure to your chest and abdomen. Avoid wearing tight bras and belts
3. Posture – Try sleeping on your left side or keep your body raised five to six inches while you sleep. Avoid stooping or bending from the waist just after meals.
4. Do not Smoke – You need to talk to a licensed acupuncturist in Saratoga Springs to explain to you how Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help you with your condition and in helping stop to smoke.
5. Modify your eating habits – Thoroughly chew your food and eat. It’s not advisable to eat bigger portions. Do not overeat. Eat smaller meals instead. Allow yourself to be moderately filled. Dinner should at least 3 hours before you go to bed. Sit after finishing your meal, sit in an upright chair and rest about half an hour after you have eaten or before any activity.
6. Diet – Avoid alcohol, fried and fatty foods, hot spicy foods, sour foods, acidic fruit juices, coffee, peppermint, tomato, chocolate, and carbonated beverages.
7. Embark on a stress management program: deep breathing activities, meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga.