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What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

When stomach acid continually rushes back into your esophagus, which is the tube between your mouth and stomach, you might be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As a result, your esophageal lining may become irritated by this backwash (acid reflux).

Many people occasionally suffer from acid reflux. Nearly everyone experiences this at some point, which is entirely natural. However, chronic acid reflux might lead to GERD if it frequently occurs over time. If you experience acid reflux or heartburn more than twice per week, regularly take antacids and heartburn medications, and still experience recurrent symptoms, you may have GERD.

GERD is prevalent, with over  20% of the U.S. population affected by the condition and its symptoms. It can affect people of any age. However, some may be more susceptible than others. For instance, after age 40, you have a higher probability of developing mild or severe GERD.

You are  more likely to have GERD if you are:

  • overweight or obese
  • pregnant
  • either smoke or exposed to second-hand smoke
  • taking several medications that could result in acid reflux.

Most people may control their GERD symptoms by making lifestyle changes and undergoing medications. Even though it is rare, some people may require surgery to relieve their symptoms.

GERD symptoms

Acid regurgitation and recurrent heartburn are the main symptoms of GERD. GERD can occur in some individuals without heartburn. Instead, they feel chest pain, morning hoarseness, or difficulty swallowing. Dry coughing and foul breath are other GERD symptoms.

GERD signs and symptoms,  can include a few or a combination of the following:

  • Burning sensation in your chest, usually after eating
  • Backwash (regurgitation) of food or sour liquid
  • Chest pain
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling of a lump in your throat
  • A persistent cough
  • Inflamed vocal cords (laryngitis)
  • Asthma flare-ups

 

Why do we experience heartburn?

Heartburn is one of the symptoms of acid reflux. The lining of your esophagus is irritated by stomach acid, causing a burning sensation in your chest.

Although it can be experienced anytime, the burning feeling frequently worsens after eating. Many people find falling asleep difficult since their heartburn worsens when they lie in bed or recline.

Fortunately, over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn/acid indigestion medications can usually be used for heartburn. To help control your heartburn, your doctor may prescribe some medicines for treatment.

How can I avoid GERD symptoms?

Here are ten tips for preventing GERD and its symptoms:

  1. Keep a healthy weight.
  2. Eat numerous, modest meals rather than large ones several times throughout the day.
  3. Reduce fat by consuming fewer full-fat dairy items like sour cream, cheese, and whole milk and less butter, oils, salad dressings, gravy, fatty meats, and other high-fat foods.
  4. During and after your meal, maintain an upright position (sitting or standing).
  5. Eat something before going to bed. Go to bed at least three hours after eating.
  6. Avoid wearing clothing that is too tight in the belly area because the stomach acid may be forced into your esophagus as they crush it.
  7. Use wooden blocks under the bedposts to raise the bed’s head 6 to 8 inches when sleeping.
  8. Give up smoking.
  9. Your doctor may recommend acid-reducing drugs. Make sure to take them as prescribed.
  10. Eliminate potential trigger foods.

 

How do I treat the signs of GERD with medicines?

There are numerous over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs that treat GERD. Most OTC medications are available in prescription strength as well. If the OTC formulas are not providing you with relief, your doctor will give you a prescription for a stronger medication.

The most popular GERD drugs are:

  • Antacids – provide quick relief by neutralizing stomach acids. Include Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta, Riopan and Maalox.
  • H-2 receptor blockers – Decrease acid production. Include Tagamet, Pepcid AC, Axid AR and Zantac.
  • Proton pump inhibitors – These are more potent acid blockers that can heal damaged esophagus tissue. Include Prevacid, Prilosec, Zegerid, Nexium, Protonix, AcipHex and Dexilant.

Baclofen – A prescription medicine used to reduce the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid backwash.

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