What is gastroesophageal reflux disease?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition caused by acid moving backward from the stomach into the esophagus. This acid activity happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) or the muscular valve located where the esophagus joins the stomach fails to close properly or opens at the wrong moment.
Gastroesophageal reflux is also known as acid reflux and almost everyone has this type of reflux at some time where stomach contents – foods and acid – move backward into the esophagus. Many people are not even aware that it is happening.
Reflux produces heartburn, the burning sensation that most of us occasionally feel however though people experience heartburn from time to time, it does not necessarily mean that they have GERD.
People with GERD experience heartburn more often along with other symptoms that cause serious discomfort. If not treated at once, GERD can be a problem and lead to permanent damage of the esophagus and sometimes even the development of cancer.
Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Aside from (frequent) heartburn, other symptoms of GERD include:
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
- Chest pain
- Coughing at night
- Sometimes a feeling of something stuck in your throat
Children and infants who have gastroesophageal reflux disease may experience coughing, breathing problems and recurrent vomiting.
Treatments of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The purpose of treating GERD is to minimize the reflux of food and acid to the esophagus, prevent damage to the esophagus, keep GERD from recurring as well as to prevent other health problems from occurring.
The following are ways to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease:
- Take medicines – take your medicines as instructed by your doctor because stopping may bring back symptoms. If you are taking over-the-counter medicines for heartburn, take them as recommended by the manufacturer. If you are taking OTC products for more than 2 weeks without any improvement in your heartburn or reflux symptoms, talk to your doctor.
- Lifestyle changes – make some changes in your life to treat GERD like losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcoholic beverages and changing your eating habits. Lifestyle changes are the most natural heartburn treatment.
- Avoid your heartburn or GERD triggers – find out what triggers your gastroesophageal reflux disease and avoid or minimize them. Common GERD triggers include fatty and spicy foods, certain medicines and drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine.
Prevention Tips for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The following are simple ways to prevent GERD. Take note that in treating as well as preventing gastroesophageal reflux disease, making changes in the way you live is very important.
- Eat smaller meals instead of 3 large meals daily. You should also prepare meals from heartburn friendly recipes.
- Avoid eating right before bedtime – make a 2-3 hours allowance
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Elevate your bed head
- Avoid tight clothes, don’t wear belts when unnecessary
- Quit your bad habits: smoking, alcohol consumption, food bingeing
- Take your medication regularly and as instructed
Gastroesophageal reflux disease should not rule your life. There are ways to live and cope with this condition and some of these are mentioned in this article. More than treating GERD, prevention is the best way to address the problem.