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Acid reflux that is continuous and more severe can be treated

About 20% of Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), suffer with GERD. Picture: Steve Lawrence/ANA Pics

About 20% of Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), suffer with GERD. Picture: Steve Lawrence/ANA Pics

Published Jan 12, 2023


When stomach contents go back up into the oesophagus, acid reflux occurs. Acid regurgitation and gastroesophageal reflux are other names for this behaviour.

You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease if you have acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week (GERD).

About 20% of Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, suffer with GERD. It occasionally results in significant problems if left untreated.

GERD symptoms

Acid reflux is the major sign of GERD. Your chest may feel like it's burning, and the discomfort may spread to your neck and throat. Heartburn is a common name for this sensation.

The back of your mouth may start to taste sour or bitter if you have acid reflux. Additionally, it could result in food or drink coming back up into your mouth from your stomach.

Nausea, chest discomfort, pain when swallowing, trouble swallowing, a persistent cough, a hoarse voice, and foul breath are some other GERD symptoms.

Treatment options for GERD

Your doctor may advise you to adjust your lifestyle to manage and alleviate the symptoms of GERD, such as:

  • keeping a healthy weight, if relevant
  • giving up smoking if you do
  • delaying lying down for a few hours following a large, substantial dinner in the evening.
  • sleeping with your head raised (by raising the head of your bed 15-20cm)

Making a GERD diagnosis

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about any symptoms you’ve been having if they think you could have GERD.

Following that, your doctor could refer you to a gastroenterologist or do certain tests on you, such as:

The 24-hour ambulatory pH probe. The oesophagus is entered through the nose with a little tube. The oesophagus’s acid exposure is measured by a pH sensor at the tube’s tip, which transmits the information to a portable computer. This tube is worn by a person for about 24 hours. This technique is typically regarded as the “gold standard“ for GERD diagnosis.

Esophagram. Your upper digestive system is examined using X-ray imaging after ingesting a barium solution.

Upper endoscopy. Your oesophagus is examined, and if necessary, a small camera-equipped flexible tube with an attached camera is inserted into it to take a tissue sample (biopsy).

Esophageal manometry. To gauge the size of your esophageal muscles, a flexible tube is inserted via the nose and into your oesophagus.

pH monitoring in the oesophagus. Over the course of a few days, a monitor is implanted into your oesophagus to track how your body regulates acid.

Your doctor will choose the best treatments for you after making a diagnosis and whether surgery is a possibility.

Heartburn vs. GERD

It’s critical to understand that GERD may be distinguished from occasional heartburn, which may not require medical attention. Heartburn is a common occurrence for most individuals, and in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about.

However, if you’ve been having heartburn more than twice a week, particularly if you’ve also had a persistent cough and chest pain, you may have GERD.

Causes of GERD

While there is no one specific cause of GERD, there is a bodily system that, when it isn't working properly, might raise the risk of it.

A ring-shaped muscular band called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is located at the oesophageal end. As it’s functioning properly, it opens and relaxes when you swallow. It then tightens and shuts once again.

When your LES doesn’t tighten or seal completely, acid reflux occurs. This enables digesting fluids and other stomach contents to ascend up your oesophagus.

Additional root causes include:

Hiatal hernia This occurs when a portion of the stomach lifts up and advances toward the chest. If the diaphragm is damaged, there is a higher chance that your LES won't function properly.

Regularly consuming substantial meals. The top section of the stomach may become distended as a result of this. This distension might indicate insufficient pressure on the LES, which prevents the LES from adequately closing.

Dozing off too soon after a substantial lunch. Additionally, this may result in less pressure than the LES requires to operate effectively.

GERD risk factors

Again, there is no one cause of GERD, but certain lifestyle choices and health conditions might increase the likelihood of a diagnosis. These include having a connective tissue disorder, being pregnant, being obese, smoking, regularly eating large meals, lying down right after eating, consuming a lot of certain foods like deep-fried or tomato-based products, drinking a lot of certain liquids like soda, coffee, or alcohol, and taking a lot of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin or ibuprofen.

GERD dietary triggers

Some people with GERD discover that specific meals and drinks might make their symptoms worse. There are a few meals that are frequently mentioned as being more triggering than others, despite the fact that triggers can be extremely individualised. High-fat meals (such fried and quick foods), citrus juices, tomatoes, onions, mint, tomatoes, and tomato products are a few of them.

Potential complications of GERD

GERD often doesn't result in significant difficulties. However, it can occasionally result in significant or even life-threatening health issues.

Potential GERD side effects include:

  • Esophagitis, an oesophageal inflammation
  • Esophageal stricture, a condition in which your oesophagus becomes constricted or narrowed
  • Barrett’s oesophagus, which causes the lining of your oesophagus to permanently alter.
  • A tiny proportion of people with Barrett’s oesophagus develop esophageal cancer.
  • Dental issues such gum disease or tooth enamel degradation

It's crucial to take action to control and treat the GERD symptoms in order to reduce the risk of problems.

You’re not alone if you occasionally get heartburn.

OTC antacids and other lifestyle modifications, such waiting a few hours before lying down after eating, can typically provide relief for these irregular episodes. However, if you discover that you get heartburn more than twice a week and simple lifestyle adjustments don’t appear to be helping, you may have GERD.

Your doctor will collaborate with you to develop a treatment strategy if you have been diagnosed with GERD. Depending on where you are with the issue, OTC drugs, prescription drugs, and even surgery are all alternatives.

Don't let chronic heartburn prevent you from enjoying life. If you think you could be experiencing GERD symptoms, consult your doctor.