What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a term to describe the common experience of acid reflux in an individual. Acid reflux typically refers to a single occurrence or instance of acid backflow from the stomach into the esophagus, described as heartburn.
Someone is usually diagnosed with GERD when acid reflux happens in mild cases twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux at least once a week. GERD can occur at any age, but typically begins around age 40.
If left untreated, patients can eventually develop Barrett’s esophagus.
What Causes GERD?
When you swallow food it passes through the esophagus and past the lower esophageal sphincter into the stomach. When the LES becomes compromised it can weaken and allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. There usually is not a single cause that leads to this happening often, but you are more likely to have or develop GERD if you meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Hiatal Hernia – when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm
- Scleroderma – connective tissue disorder
- Eat large meals late at night
- Eat spicy foods
- Eat raw onion or garlic
- Lie down often after eating
- Drink coffee
What Are The Major Symptoms Of GERD?
The major symptoms of GERD are similar to acid reflux but happen more often. Those symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Lump in your throat sensation
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic cough
- Disrupted sleep
You should make an appointment with your gastroenterologist today if you experience any of these symptoms frequently and are in pain, or if you take over the counter heartburn medication more than twice a week.
What Are The Available Treatments For GERD?
Treatments to prevent or relieve GERD include:
- Avoid the foods and beverages prone to cause acid reflux (seen in above lists)
- Eat in moderation and slowly
- Stay up and stand up after eating
- Don’t eat at least 2 hours before going to bed
- Sleep on an incline
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight
- Tell your gastroenterologist about the current medications you are taking.
- Limit your coffee/caffeine intake
- Over the counter (OTC) antacids
- Prescription strength antacids (H-2 receptor blockers)
- Medication to strengthen the LES
- Fundoplication- surgery wrapping your stomach around the LES
- LINX device- magnetic beads wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus.