by ana theresa williams,bsn,rn
Are you obese, pregnant, asthmatic, diabetic, or even a smoker? If you answered yes to one of these conditions then you are at risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of GERD include acid reflux or regurgitation of food or sour liquid, and heartburn or burning sensation in your chest that sometimes spread to the throat along with a sour taste in your mouth. Both are common digestive conditions that many people experience from time to time. When these signs and symptoms occur at least twice each week or interfere with your daily life, doctors call this GERD.
Most people can manage the discomfort of heartburn with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But for people with GERD, these remedies may offer only temporary relief. People with GERD may need stronger medications, even surgery, to reduce symptoms.
Other than acid reflux and heartburn, you will also have signs and symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty swallowing or dysphagia, dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat, and sensation of a lump in the throat.
Frequent burping or excessive burping is also one common sign of GERD. Gastroenterologists said you should consult your doctor at once if you often burp every second or minute.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain, especially when accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as shortness of breath or jaw or arm pain. These may be signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms. If you take over-the-counter medications for heartburn more than twice per week, see your doctor.
If you’re bothered by frequent heartburn or other signs and symptoms, your doctor may suggest tests and procedures used to diagnose GERD, including an X-ray of your upper digestive system called barium swallow or upper GI series; passing a flexible tube down your throat called endoscopy; a test to monitor the amount of acid in your esophagus called ambulatory acid (pH) probe tests; and a test to measure the movement of the esophagus called esophageal motility testing.
Lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency of heartburn. Consider trying to maintain a healthy weight like if you are overweight or obese, work to slowly lose weight no more than 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Ask your doctor for help in devising a weight-loss strategy that will work for you.
You should avoid tight-fitting clothing around your waist that puts pressure on your abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.
Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn such as fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and caffeine.
Eat smaller meals by not overeating, and do not lie down after a meal. You should wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
Elevate the head of your bed to put gravity to work for you. You can place wood or cement blocks under the feet of your bed so that the head end is raised by six to nine inches. But if it is not possible to elevate your bed, you can insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. Wedges are available at drugstores and medical supply stores. However, raising your head with additional pillows is not effective.
Last but not the least is to STOP SMOKING because it decreases the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to function properly.
HEALTHWATCHING: He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. Colossians 1:28