Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or stomach acid occurs when stomach acid rises into the oesophagus and causes a burning sensation in the chest.
In normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter opens to allow food to move into the stomach and closes again to prevent food and stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. When the lower esophageal sphincter does not function properly, GERD will occur.
Causes of GERD
GERD can arise due to certain food intake. When eating, the lower esophageal sphincter, which functions like a valve – moves. When these valves do not work properly, the acids from the food you eat churn and leak into the esophagus, causing a burning chest pain.
The esophageal valve has the potential to be damaged or be unable to work properly due to factors such as obesity, pregnancy, and age-related factors.
When to See a Doctor for GERD?
The doctor diagnoses GERD by asking about the symptoms experienced. GERD patients will be treated by a gastroenterologist. To confirm that you have GERD, a series of physical examinations may be performed, such as:
- Gastroscopy — a test performed to detect problems in the upper digestive system. The gastroscopy procedure uses a special tube with a camera to take samples from the esophageal tissue and examine it using a microscope.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG), a technique that records the electrical activity generated by muscles to evaluate nerve and muscle function. EKG is not fully used to detect GERD directly, but rather to detect other diseases that may trigger symptoms of GERD.
- X-ray of the digestive tract or stomach, a test performed by taking pictures inside the stomach using radiation. The results of this X-ray will show the condition of the stomach and see if there is swelling or inflammation in the stomach.
Symptoms of GERD
The most common symptom of GERD is a burning sensation in the chest. This usually appears after you eat and can last for several hours. Additionally, it can get worse when you are lying down or bending over.
Symptoms of acute GERD include a sour or bitter taste in your throat and mouth and difficulty swallowing. You may also feel like you have food stuck in your throat.
In certain cases, GERD can cause asthma symptoms or a persistent cough.
Treatment for GERD
To treat GERD, there are several treatments that can be done:
- Antacids — medications to neutralize acid levels in the stomach. This medication can help temporarily relieve burning sensation in the chest. Excessive consumption of antacids can have dangerous side effects.
- H2 blockers — a group of medicines to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Unlike antacids that provide immediate yet short-term pain relief – H2 blockers have a long-term effect. These blockers work by directly controlling the acid in the stomach. You are recommended to consume this medicine 30 minutes before eating.
- Proton-pump inhibitors — members of a class of stomach acid medications. This medication is more effective than H2 blockers.
In addition, GERD can also be treated at home by maintaining a healthy diet.
Treatment Cost for GERD
The cost for GERD treatment varies — depending on the symptoms and the frequency of the symptoms.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of GERD treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of GERD
The most effective way to prevent GERD is by changing your diet and lifestyle.
- Eat healthy and clean foods. Some foods are believed to trigger GERD by bringing extra acid into the stomach. Acidic foods include tomatoes, onions, chocolate, tart fruits and fast food.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine have a higher potential to trigger GERD compared to other types of drinks. Orange juice also has the potential to cause GERD.
- Get regular exercise. Not all forms of exercise are good for preventing GERD. Some sports activities increase pressure on the stomach and increase acid levels as well. Head-stand yoga poses and sit-ups should be avoided
- Use an extra pillow when sleeping. GERD sufferers who experience symptoms at night should add extra pillows This is done to keep stomach acid where it should be.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes in the stomach area. For example, wearing a waist strap can cause pressure that triggers an increase in your stomach’s acid levels — which eventually can lead to symptoms of GERD.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with GERD
GERD can be treated by taking medication and changing your diet and living a healthy life. Usually, GERD occurs during pregnancy – especially in the second and third trimesters. This is caused by hormonal changes.
Changes in hormone levels increase stomach pressure and trigger a burning sensation in the chest. In pregnant women with GERD, your doctor will prescribe special medicines. Additionally, your doctor will advise exercise patterns for pregnant women.
Changing your lifestyle can include:
- Eating in the right portions
Foods high in fat can trigger GERD symptoms as your body takes longer to digest fatty foods.
In addition, consumption of spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol can also cause GERD symptoms. The esophageal valve will become too relaxed and allow stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
GERD symptoms can be relieved by wearing loose-fitting clothes, especially on the abdomen. Tight-fitting clothes can put pressure on the stomach. This pressure causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
- Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep triggers stress, and stress triggers acid reflux. In addition to triggering GERD symptoms, stress can cause complications. Therefore, a good sleep pattern reduces the risk of GERD symptoms.
- Elevate the head of your bed
When sleeping, it is recommended that you elevate the head of the entire bed with a wedge pillow. This will prevent acid reflux when lying down.