Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between the esophagus and the stomach.
Normally LES allows unidirectional passage of food, that is, when we swallow the food it goes down to the stomach and the muscles prevent anything going backwards.
How is GERD treated?
In “reflux” disorder, however, the LES is weak enough to control this action, causing food and digestive juices to flow back up the esophagus.
GERD Symptoms That Need Attention
The most common symptom of GERD is acid indigestion, where people usually feel a burning sensation or pressure in the heart moving up their throat. It can take almost 2 hours. Many mistake it as the cause of heart disease or heart attacks. In addition to heartburn, you may experience nausea, difficulty swallowing, a lumpy feeling in the throat, recurring vomiting, coughing, worsening breathing difficulties, laryngitis, bad breath, and difficulty sleeping.
Medication for GERD
Gastroesophageal disorders are quite common in adults. Infants and children can also suffer from the consequences. As a result, doctors often prescribe over-the-counter medications to reduce reflux or the damage to the esophagus caused by acid attacks.
- Antacids- These drugs provide a temporary solution to the discomfort. Many people take them without a prescription. These drugs usually neutralize the acid in the esophagus and stomach area and have a calming effect. Too many of these, however, can have side effects and cause diarrhea, changes in calcium metabolism, and magnesium build-up.
- H2 blockers – Sometimes the problems can be chronic and the doctor may suggest H2 blockers, which prevent the stomach from secreting acids. Medicines such as cimetide (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), and nizatidine can be taken.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PIPs) – These are drugs, also known as acid pumps, that disrupt the proteins that help make stomach acid. Dexlansoprazole (Dexialant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (Aciphex) are some of the drugs.
When GERD becomes severe
Reflux disorder is usually treated with over-the-counter medications. However, there are cases when simple treatments do not produce any results. People with Hiatal hernia, in which the upper part of the stomach protrudes into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm, can sometimes make the situation worse. Surgery is then the only treatment. Before surgery, the doctor asked patients for tests such as endoscopy, upper GI series, esophageal manometry and impedance study, and pH tests for a better diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is complete, surgery follows. Anyone can be proposed.
- Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF)
- Stretta method
- LINX surgery
Diet and lifestyle changes to prevent GERD
GERD can get complicated by damaging the inner lining of the esophagus and causing cancer. They can also make breathing problems worse, as they can affect lung function. So simple changes in diet and lifestyle plans can help us prevent the severity of the disease.
- The food should be eaten slowly and properly chewed.
- Small portions of food are recommended with meals. This helps with proper digestion. A break of at least 2-3 hours between eating and sleeping is also recommended. This helps the food use the acid for digestion and emptying the stomach.
- Foods and drinks that cause lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, such as chocolate, caffeinated drinks, peppermint, fatty foods, and alcohol. Foods that can irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus, such as citrus fruit juices, peppers, and tomatoes, should also be avoided.
- It is said that raising your head at least 6 inches while sleeping can reduce the backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus. However, this should not be done with pillows, but with wedges to increase the height of the bed.
- Loose-fitting clothing should be worn
- Maintaining a healthy weight is good for this condition, as obesity can make reflux conditions worse.
- Smoking should be avoided as it is said to weaken the LES.
- Sometimes acupuncture can reduce GERD problems, but it needs more evidence.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition that is often treated with over-the-counter drugs, and people may not take it too seriously. Some may see cardiologists because they think it is a heart condition. But in any situation, a visit to the doctor is always the best option.
Also read: What Causes Asthma and How Can It Be Treated?
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