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 Overview

GERD is one of the most common chronic conditions among adults.

Sometimes called “acid reflux” and other times “heartburn“, the problem of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) affects millions of people around the world.

By definition, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a heartburn condition that involves the stomach’s acidic digestive juices flowing backwards into the esophagus and irritating this passage.

This could be as a result of an abnormality with reflux or swallowing malfunction, which in most cases makes patients prone to recurring and worsening heartburn pain.

Common symptoms include but are not limited to:

Burning sensation at the back of your throat, chest burning and even chest pain or discomfort that worsens after eating, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or regurgitation of food from the esophagus into the mouth, it typically comes up in one big reflex for some people – often accompanied by a sour taste (acetous belching).

It affects millions of people every year and ninety percent go undiagnosed.

Acid reflux can be treated by altering certain lifestyle factors and taking medications, but the general rule is that if the symptoms aren’t causing any noticeable damage, then it may not be necessary to take actions to manage them.

How do you know if you have it?

In this article we discuss the signs to look for and how prevention can be done from your side.

It is also important to consult your doctor should you experience any of the below symptoms.

 

GERD Symptoms

 

There are several symptoms associated with GERD, and many people do not understand what is happening in their body when their symptoms arise.

Symptoms tend to get worse when you lie down. It also gets worse after a meal or certain foods such as chocolate, mints, caffeinated drinks, citrus fruits or fatty foods.

Smoking also causes damage to the esophageal lining so it is a good idea to stop smoking if possible while working on getting control of GERD symptoms.

Some studies show that pregnant women with GERD can pass on problems associated with GERD (such as asthma) to their developing babies during pregnancy through intrauterine exposure to gastric contents that are not properly handled.

If you have acid reflux, you might develop a bitter or sour taste at the back of your mouth.

The most common symptoms of GERD include:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Pain When Swallowing
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Chronic Cough
  • A Hoarse Voice
  • Bad Breath
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

Should you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor to make an appointment.

gerd chest pain - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

 

GERD Causes

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the backward flow of stomach acid through the esophageal sphincter. Typically, it can happen a few times a year and it causes heartburn and indigestion.

Although some people think that GERD can be cured by diet alone, then they may need to read on to find out how nutritional medicine and lifestyle management could help them.

There are several factors that can make it more likely that you’ll have GERD, the most common factors are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Large meals
  • Eating before bed
  • Certain medications
  • Certain foods i.e., chocolate, coffee, fatty foods, or alcohol
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Delayed emptying of stomach

One of the most common causes of GERD, they tend to be caused by acid in the digestive tract, which can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, causing it to open, releasing acid directly into the esophagus.

If people are eliminating these trigger foods and adding healthier ones but still have problems with discomfort or heartburn, then there’s a possibility that one of these other factors is at play.

People with GERD need to keep a careful eye on what they’re eating–foods that are spicy hot, or full of sugar or fat should be avoided.

Instead, try consuming more dry sweeteners in place of regular sugar and notice if there’s any difference; this may help reduce symptoms without sacrificing flavor.

Also try out healthier grass-fed low glycemic index carbohydrates that are whole grain based instead.

gerd explained - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

GERD Prevention: Diet and Lifestyle

 

Basically, the eating plan and lifestyle changes that are required to keep GERD symptoms in check are designed to reduce stomach acidity and improve digestion.

This can be achieved by keeping a journal of meals, beverages and snacks consumed over a period of time.

While journaling is taking place, also keep track of any other variables that might be contributing to GERD such as aggressive or inappropriate eating behavior or exercise patterns.

Once you’ve identified potential triggers using journaling, you can start working on your change program by implementing prescribed diet changes from a suitable resource.

By making small but effective changes at the ground level of your lifestyle and habits, like cutting out processed foods or adding more whole foods into your diet, GERD symptoms will lessen — along with any medications needed for the treatment.

The following may lessen your symptoms of GERD:

  • Elevate your head when sleeping
  • Avoid food triggers such as chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods etc
  • Eating smaller servings
  • Eat slowly
  • Stop smoking
  • Remain at a healthy weight
  • Wear loose clothes
  • Chew your food thoroughly

gerd foods to avoid - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?


GERD Treatment

Many sufferers are prescribed medication such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help soothe the discomfort associated with GERD.

However, natural remedies have also been shown to be useful in treating GERD and many people take herbal supplements like ginger root, peppermint tea or slippery elm to help alleviate symptoms.

Diet can also play a part in relief from symptoms of GERD – those who suffer are often advised to avoid spicy foods and fatty meals.

Your doctor might also suggest that you take over-the-counter medications such as antacids, receptor blockers and pump inhibitors.

 

Diagnosing GERD

 

Diagnosing GERD is a process that requires the elimination of any other possible conditions that could be causing your symptoms in order to identify whether you have reflux or not.

It’s best to visit your doctor first and get put through a series of examinations and tests, such as gastroscopy, ultrasound scans, barium swallow or pH monitoring to determine what the root cause of your condition is.

GERD can severely affect the quality of your life but diagnosing the problem and finding a solution doesn’t have to be difficult.

Unfortunately, standard diagnostic practices such as a barium swallow, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), X-ray and CT scan often turn up inconclusive results.

This leaves doctors unable to properly assist their patients.

If you experience GERD two or more times a week, it is a chronic condition that’s not just uncomfortable, but can have long-term effects on your health.

Talk with your doctor so you can get the proper treatment to be pain-free.

what is gerd heartburn - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

 

When To See a Gastroenterologist

There is no one definitive answer to the question of when to see a gastroenterologist.
However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to seek medical help.

In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery if needed.

Undergoing a lifestyle inspection and changing habits where applicable may mean the difference between continuously treating GERD symptoms and never having to deal with the problem of a lax lower oesophageal sphincter in the first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Pain When Swallowing
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Chronic Cough
  • A Hoarse Voice
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GERD in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today. 

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.

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