Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) both refer to chronic
heartburn, affecting over 20% of the American populous
. As opposed to the occasional bout of heartburn that nearly everyone will experience at some point which is usually caused by ingesting a particularly spicy food, GERD is caused by a weakened esophageal sphincter which allows bilious juices to splash back up from your lower intestinal tract into your esophagus.
This flow reversal of harsh digestive fluids can cause symptoms ranging from unpleasant to painful. Some symptoms include:
- burning and irritation traveling from stomach to chest (especially after eating)
- nausea or regurgitation from acid moving into your mouth.
- Some studies have illustrated a possible comorbidity between GERD and asthma, with the coughing, wheezing and chronic hoarseness caused by GERD often bringing on asthma attacks in those afflicted by both conditions.
- Long term effects of GERD include tooth enamel erosion, narrowing of the esophagus or bloody or black stools.
- If you are experiencing some of the more serious symptoms such as chest pain or changes in the appearance of your bowel movements, you should consult a doctor right away as both of these can be signs of more serious conditions such as heart problems or bowel cancer.
Alternative Treatment Options
Some unconventional home remedies
you can try before running to the pharmacy:
- Add more alkaline-rich almonds to your diet to help balance your pH level
- Chamomile, mint or fenugreek tea may help ease the tummy – thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties
- Chew gum can help stimulate saliva production which can help neutralize acidity, so get to chomping!
There are many things you can do before trying medications, or to supplement them. Some of the doctor-recommended
lifestyle changes include:
- Elevate your bed at least 4-6 inches so fluids will have a tougher time traveling in reverse as you try to catch zzz’s, and nap in a chair if sleepy during the day.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat smaller meals (packed with high-fibre fruits and veggies), and stop eating hours before bedtime.
- Know and avoid your triggers – every sufferer is different, but some foods have been proven to aggravate, GERD including: high fat foods, tomatoes and citrus, certain alcoholic beverages, onions and spicy foods, and chocolate.
- Lose extra weight – doctors suggest that losing 10% of your body weight should help ease symptoms if you are overweight.
Medical Treatment Options
Some GERD sufferers have success with over-the-counter antacids or anti-foaming agents, but others require stronger medications to keep their symptoms under control. According to WebMD
, types of medications that have proven successful for GERD include antacids, H2 blockers such as ranitidine, and prokinetics which can help evacuate your stomach quicker, minimizing reflux. Another type of medication is proton pump inhibitors, which work to reduce or stop the production of stomach acid (but use these with caution as they have been linked to kidney damage). For very severe cases which don’t respond well to medications there are surgical options such as the surgical insertion of a ‘LYNK’ ring around the esophagus to prevent acid backup.
Talk to Your Doctor (or One of Ours!)
If you are experiencing many of these symptoms and suspect you may have undiagnosed acid reflux, you should consult your doctor or one of our highly qualified EMC physicians soon to see if your troubles are related to chronic heartburn, as unchecked GERD can lead to such serious complications as esophageal cancer or erosion of the digestive tract requiring surgery.