How to recognize and avoid GERD?
Have you ever felt chest pain after eating? Maybe your throat feels acidic all the time. It might be GERD! Read on to find out more.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, is a chronic digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It happens when acid or bile from the stomach flows back into the esophagus, irritating and inflaming it. This can cause a number of problems, such as heartburn, chest pain, trouble swallowing, and vomiting backup food.
GERD is a common condition, affecting around 20% of the adult population in the United States. It happens more often in older people and is often caused by changes in the digestive system that come with getting older. Other things that put you at risk are being overweight, being pregnant, smoking, and taking certain medicines, like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the chest that usually happens after eating or lying down, is the most common sign of GERD. Other symptoms may include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or acid, and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. These symptoms can be mild or severe, and they may occur sporadically or persistently.
If left untreated, GERD can have a big effect on a person's quality of life by getting in the way of daily tasks and causing other problems. Chronic inflammation of the esophagus can result in scarring and narrowing of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. It can also increase the risk of esophageal cancer, although this is rare.
GERD is a condition that can be treated, and there are several ways to deal with its symptoms. Lifestyle changes are often the first line of treatment and may include:
- Diet modification: Avoiding trigger foods such as spicy or acidic foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet can reduce pressure on the stomach and prevent acid reflux.
- Posture and positioning: Sitting upright after meals and elevating the head of the bed can help prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
- Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking can reduce the severity and frequency of GERD symptoms, as smoking can increase stomach acid production and weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that controls the flow of food and acid from the stomach to the esophagus.
Medications and surgery may also be options for people with severe or persistent GERD symptoms. The most common procedure is called fundoplication, in which the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the LES to strengthen it and prevent acid reflux.
But don’t let it get worse before making any changes! Here are some lifestyle modifications you can make to help prevent or reduce GERD symptoms:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can put pressure on your abdomen, which can cause acid reflux. Losing weight if you are overweight or obese can help reduce the severity and frequency of GERD symptoms.
- Avoid trigger foods: Certain foods and drinks can trigger acid reflux, including spicy foods, fried foods, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks. Pay attention to which foods and drinks tend to cause your symptoms, and avoid them if possible.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Large meals can put pressure on the stomach, causing acid reflux. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help reduce the risk of acid reflux.
- Avoid lying down after eating: It is important to wait at least 2-3 hours after eating before lying down. This can help prevent acid from flowing back up into the esophagus.
- Elevate the head of your bed: Sleeping with your head elevated can help prevent acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. You can elevate the head of your bed by using a wedge pillow or by placing blocks under the head of the bed.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of acid reflux and other digestive problems. Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of GERD and improve overall health.
- Manage stress: Stress can increase the risk of acid reflux by increasing the production of stomach acid. Finding ways to manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in physical activity, can help reduce the risk of GERD.
In conclusion, GERD is a common condition that can be treated. If it isn't treated, it can have a big effect on a person's quality of life. Most people with GERD can control their symptoms and avoid complications by making changes to their lifestyle and taking their medicine as directed. If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for you.