All You Need to Know About the Gerd Disease

The gastroesophageal reflux disease, popularly known as GERD, is a disease that affects millions of people all over the world. It is also known in other words as acid reflux disease or gastric reflux disease. It is a symptom of mucosal damage and occurs when acid comes from the stomach into the esophagus. The GERD disease usually occurs due to changes in the barrier located between the esophagus and the stomach. It may also occur as a result of abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter that holds the top of the stomach in a closed position.

How it occurs

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions and allows the food in the stomach to backwash into the esophagus. The esophagus, commonly known as the food pipe, is a canal connecting the mouth and the stomach. Between the stomach and the mouth is the lower esophageal sphincter which is a ring of muscle. It acts as a one way valve that prevents the contents of the stomach, which are acidic, from spilling back into the mouth. Whenever this happens in a chronic manner, a person is said to be suffering from the GERD disease.

What are the Symptoms of GERD Disease

The disease displays itself in various but definite forms as discussed below.

Heartburn. This is the most common symptoms and involves discharge of acidic stomach contents through the mouth.

Regurgitation. This occurs when one is bending or sleeping. It is very similar to heartburn. It involves the backward flow of acidic food contents in the stomach through the throat and into the mouth.

Dysphagia. This is a swallowing disorder. The patient generally has difficulties in swallowing foods and drinks. The disorder may also be accompanied by a feeling of tightness or pain in the throat, as if a piece of food is stuck there.

Respiratory Problems. A patient suffering from the GERD disease may also experience some respiratory problems. The common respiratory problems in this case include wheezing, a persistent cough and hoarseness in the throat. This problem is mainly experienced upon waking up in the morning.

More symptoms. Other symptoms associated with the GERD disease include halitosis (bad breath), recurring abdominal pain, bloating and a bitter taste felt in the mouth.

Diagnosis

GERD disease is easily diagnosed by an evaluation of the above symptoms by a medical practitioner. A detailed historical knowledge of the patient is necessary for accurate diagnosis. Some of the tests performed include barium swallow X-rays, esophageal pH monitoring and esophageal manometry. The most used diagnostic test for GERD disease is esophageal pH monitoring. It is the most objective of all the tests and also allows monitoring of how GERD patients respond to medical treatment or surgery.

Treatment

Treatment of acid reflux disease involves medications, lifestyle modification or surgery. With lifestyle modifications, the main route to treatment involves alteration of the type of food that one takes. Certain foods and lifestyles promote GERD. Weight loss and elevation of the head while sleeping, such as by the use of a pillow, are effective. Exercise improves symptoms though it may worsen them if it is rigorous. Medics recommend mild exercise. Doing away with alcohol and smoking goes a long way in helping fight the disease. The symptoms also diminish if one avoids certain foods just before retiring to bed. Among the foods and drinks that someone diagnosed with the condition should avoid taking before sleeping include coffee, chocolate, acidic foods, fatty foods, alcohol and spicy foods. The above lifestyle changes completely heal patients though not all respond well.

Medication may be recommended especially where lifestyle changes do not work. The common medications used for GERD disease include antacids and proton pump inhibitors. The most used medication is antacids as they do not require medical prescriptions and work instantly. It is recommended that one should see a doctor if the symptoms of acid reflux disease persist for proper diagnosis and medication.

Surgery only happens in extreme cases of the disease and where other medical conditions are involved. The common surgical treatment is Nissen fundoplication. In the procedure, the sphincter is strengthened by wrapping the upper part of the stomach around it. This prevents acid reflux and repairs a hiatal hernia.

How to Prevent GERD

For most people who suffer from this problem, the solution is within their means and it is not even necessary to see the doctor. However, if it is persistent, one should see a doctor to ensure there is no serious underlying medical problem. The idea of dealing with GERD should involve a change of diet and the general lifestyle.

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD and affect up to 20% of the people in the Western countries. This problem is largely due to peoples’ lifestyle. It is the result of lifestyle habits such as inactivity, smoking, junk food, excessive alcohol, and lack of sleep. It normally occurs after a heavy meal or at night. Though it is known as heartburn, it has nothing at all to do with your heart. Though crabs are not recommended foods, they are a natural remedy for acid reflux as they soak up acidic foods in the stomach.

Taking up to four ounces of milk daily is healthy and also neutralizes stomach’s acid and hence acid reflux before it even happens. If you do not have milk all the time, replace it with water. Instead of taking sodas, juices, alcohol or milky drinks, drink water. Eating a balanced diet and taking lots of water is the surest way to prevent acid reflux. If you already have the problem, taking milk, baking soda, ginger or some food containing orange peels helps sooth the effects of the disease.

GERD disease should not be a problem to all the people it affects throughout the world. By simply checking on what you eat and your lifestyle, you can bid the disease farewell forever. You don’t have to live with its discomfort while you can lead a comfortable life. Exercising, quitting smoking and alcohol as well as taking apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli, cabbages and plenty of water and milk will go a long way in helping you deal with GERD.

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