Our gastroenterology practice in Johannesburg is committed to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all types of digestive diseases including acid reflux, heartburn and irritable bowel disease, as well as other chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease and stomach cancer.
We are a friendly and caring gastroenterology private practice, treating patients in Johannesburg. We are dedicated to providing an outstanding quality of care and personal service.
What is GORD?
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common condition mostly experienced by adults, where acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus.
Reflux of the contents of the stomach into the oesophagus is a normal event that occurs in many people after eating.
When gastric reflux causes a person to have persistent symptoms such as two or more times weekly, they are said to have gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
Symptoms are often made worse by lying flat, are related to meals (especially fatty foods), and maybe worsened by hot liquids or alcohol.
In patients who suffer from gastr-oesophageal reflux disease, there is an anomaly in the sphincter muscle that separates the oesophagus and the stomach.
Ideally, the muscle is very strong and opens only to let food pass from the oesophagus into the stomach and closes to keep the food from moving back up.
When the muscle is weakened, it becomes unable to keep the stomach content from moving back up into the oesophagus. When the content of the stomach moves into the oesophagus, it can cause discomfort.
Since the stomach content is mostly acidic, it creates the burning feeling that we commonly refer to as heartburn.
The oesophagus of every adult human has a certain condition that is ideal for it. It is not used to acids and can never get used to them.
When acidic contents from the stomach keep creeping into the oesophagus, the pipe-like organ can get inflamed and this will result to a condition known as Esophagitis.
This condition, in turn, can transform into what is termed Barret’s oesophagus, which is a precancerous condition.
What are the Risk Factors or Causes of GORD?
One of the main risk factors for GORD is being overweight or obese. This is thought to be due to extra pressure being put on the lower oesophageal sphincter by the stomach, which weakens the muscles.
Other risk factors include:
- Eating large amounts of fatty foods
- Excessive coffee consumption
- Acidic fruits and vegetables, like citrus or tomatoes
- Spicy foods
- Excessive alcohol consumption
More information on what causes GORD can be found here.
What are the Symptoms of GORD?
GORD may just be an occasional stumbling block for some people. But for others, GORD can be a more severe and life-threatening.
Common symptoms include:
- acid reflux (an acid or sour taste in the mouth)
- Oesophagitis (a sore, inflamed oesophagus)
- bad breath
- bloating and belching
- indigestion (dyspepsia)
- feeling or being sick
- pain when swallowing and/or difficulty swallowing
- a sore throat and hoarseness
- asthma symptoms of cough and wheeze
- a persistent cough, usually at night
- Tooth decay
When to See a Gastroenterologist
Visit your gastroenterologist if you’re worried about your symptoms, or if:
- you have symptoms more than twice a week
- over-the-counter medications aren’t helping you
- your symptoms are severe
- you have difficulty swallowing.
How is GORD Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have GORD, consult your gastroenterologist who will ask you about your symptoms and medical history.
A diagnosis of GORD is highly likely if persistent heartburn is your primary complaint.
GORD Diagnosis tests may include:
Endoscopy involves having an endoscope passed through your mouth down into your stomach to examine the lining of your digestive tract.
pH monitoring involves using an acid monitor (a thin tube with a sensor at one end) to measure acidity levels in your oesophagus.
X-ray of your upper digestive system.
What are the Treatment Available?
It is important to begin treating GORD as soon as possible after you’ve been diagnosed. If untreated, acid reflux will continue to damage the oesophagus and create other problems later on.
Treatment is aimed at decreasing the degree of reflux and reducing damage to the oesophagus lining.
With appropriate treatment, the prognosis for patients with GORD is very good, as symptoms almost invariably resolve.
However, relapses are common if therapy is stopped. A small number of people with GORD do not respond to medication and need surgery to treat their symptoms.
Eating & Lifestyle Changes
The type of food we eat significantly affect the amount of acids that find their way into the oesophagus.
Generally, fatty foods are known to contribute more to acid reflux. High fibre foods, on the other hand, have been found to be helpful. The link between high fat intake and GERD is understandable.
Fatty contents have direct effect on the sphincter. It causes the ring of muscles to relax and when this happens, more contents from the stomach (always acidic) creep up into the oesophagus.
When this continuous, it is certain that erosive esophagitis will set in and it will only be a matter of time before cancer can set in too.
Here are some lifestyle changes that can help manage the condition.
- Keep active by participating in sports or gym
- Watch what you eat and how much you eat.
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn.
- Stop smoking and drinking.
- reduce alcohol intake.
- Don’t eat close to bedtime.
If lifestyle changes alone fail to control symptoms, you may need to take medicines. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe a medicine called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).
This helps block stomach acid production and help to heal the oesophagus. Alternatively, your gastroenterologist may also prescribe over the counter Antacids.
Antacids neutralize stomach acids and provide rapid relief of symptoms especially in those with mild disease.
Antacids usually come as liquid suspensions or tablets.
More information on Antacids and medications can be found here.
Surgery to stop stomach acid leaking into your oesophagus may be recommended if your symptoms are not controlled by medication.
In such circumstances, you will usually discuss the treatment options with a specialist to agree the best option for you.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.