Understanding GERD: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation to its lining. While occasional acid reflux or heartburn is common, GERD occurs when acid reflux happens frequently and repeatedly, leading to damage to the esophagus. According to the National Institute of Health, 20 percent of Americans suffer from GERD.
Symptoms of GERD include difficulty swallowing, burning sensation in the chest, chest pain when lying horizontally, burning sensation in the throat, bad taste in the back of the throat, and reflux that occurs at night and wakes you.
GERD is caused by the failure of the sphincter muscle connecting the esophagus to the stomach to properly close after opening to admit food and drink. Certain physical factors may cause GERD, including weak or injured LES, abdominal distention, delayed emptying of stomach content, and presence of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
GERD is treated with diet and lifestyle adjustments, medication, and, in rare instances, surgical intervention. Diet and lifestyle are crucial first steps in treating GERD, including achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking, eating frequent, smaller meals, decreasing the amount of fat in your diet, and avoiding trigger foods. Medications include antacids, histamine blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and prokinetic agents. Surgical interventions include Nissen fundoplication, transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF), and LINX device.
Losing weight if you are overweight and stopping smoking if you smoke are two lifestyle choices that can make a big difference in preventing GERD. Reducing or stopping the usage of certain medications that can aggravate acid reflux/GERD may also be effective. Eating and sleeping well in addition to lifestyle choices to manage stress and anxiety can also help control acid reflux/GERD.
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