GERD is a digestive disorder that many people have heard about, but few understand. An acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the chronic disease is thought to affect more than 35 percent of American adults.
GERD occurs when the stomach’s contents — food, acidic juices, and sometimes bile — flows back into the food pipe, or esophagus. The acidic backwash irritates the esophageal lining, causing GERD symptoms.
Heartburn and acid reflux are the most common signs of GERD, but they are also common digestive conditions that most people experience once in a while. If they occur more than twice a week, or interrupt daily life, the condition is labeled GERD.
Signs And Symptoms Of GERD
In addition to acid reflux and heartburn, GERD presents several other signs and symptoms. These include chest pain, a dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat, swallowing problems, or a lump sensation in the throat.
In serious GERD cases, people may experience jaw or arm pain with the chest pain. Some may have shortness of breath. People with these GERD symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, as they could also be signs of a heart attack.
Causes And Risks Of GERD
Acid reflux is the most frequent cause of GERD. Normally, a muscle that circles the esophagus (the esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow swallowed food to enter the stomach, then closes. An abnormal or weak valve can allow stomach contents to back up, inflaming the esophagus and causing heartburn. This may cause bleeding or breathing problems over time.
Several factors influence a person’s risk of GERD. These include pregnancy, obesity, smoking, asthma, diabetes, hiatal hernia, and various disorders. GERD affects people of all ages, but the risk increases significantly after age 40.
Common Treatments For GERD
While most people can manage heartburn and acid reflux with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine or lifestyle changes, people with GERD usually require permanent relief. If OTC antacids, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are ineffective, doctors can prescribe stronger medications. However, the prescription-strength medicine can lead to bone loss, so many doctors also suggest calcium supplements.
Sometimes GERD medications are combined to improve effectiveness. Surgery and other invasive procedures are recommended only if prescription medications are not helpful.
While alternative medicines cannot cure GERD or treat the condition alone, some people integrate complementary therapies with standard medical treatment. These include acupuncture, herbal remedies, and relaxation techniques.
Lifestyle Remedies For GERD
While GERD cannot be eliminated without medical intervention, certain lifestyle changes can help people manage heartburn. Weight loss, loose clothing, and smaller meals are some helpful changes. People should also avoid the foods and drinks that trigger heartburn for them. Elevating the head side of the bed can help GERD patients sleep better at night. And quitting smoking can improve the function of the esophageal sphincter.
For more information on GERD, including serious symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, visit Reflux Remedy. This website features valuable information on heartburn acid reflux treatment and relief tips.