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How To Recognise The Warning Signs Of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Contributed by: Rachana Arya

Introduction

If you suffer from acid reflux regularly, going about your daily routine can be challenging.

However, if the acid reflux happens more frequently (two or more times a week), then you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

This digestive disorder has been associated with significant deterioration in the quality of life and results in interfered physical activity, impaired social functioning, and disturbed sleep. 

Let’s look more closely at this disease, what causes it, and why it’s critical to seek expert care if you have GERD.

What is GERD?

It’s a chronic condition characterized by frequent episodes of acid reflux.

In GERD, the stomach acid flows back into your throat via the oesophagus.

This occurs when the lower oesophagal sphincter – the ring of muscle at the end of the oesophagus – does not function properly.

When these muscles relax or weaken at inopportune periods, stomach acid flows back up the food pipe.

Symptoms of GERD

Although the symptoms of GERD and acute acid reflux seem similar, the intensity and frequency of these symptoms are different.

Frequent heartburn — two to three times per week — is the most common symptom of GERD. Other bothersome symptoms include:

A burning sensation in your chest after meals
Chest pain, particularly while sleeping
Trouble swallowing food
Pain in the stomach
Heartburn 
Regurgitation of food (unpleasant movement of material upwards from the stomach)
A sensation of a lump in your throat
Sore, raw throat or hoarseness in voice
The sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
Burping acid into the mouth

Causes of GERD

There is no single cause of GERD, but rather a list of potential causes, including:

Weakened Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

The LES can become weakened or compromised for a variety of causes, including regular overeating, smoking, or consuming alcohol.

High-fat diets also relax the LES, and certain drugs, such as blood pressure meds, antibiotics, and antidepressants, might harm it.

Hiatal hernias

This occurs when a piece of the stomach goes up into the chest. Parts of the stomach can shift upwards when the diaphragm—a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen—is not intact.

The LES’s ability to prevent food from ascending up the oesophagus is reduced as a result. GERD is one of the most prevalent symptoms of Hiatal hernias.

Delayed Gastric Emptying (DGE):

DGE is a medical condition in which your body delays or prevents the flow of food from your stomach to your small intestine, enabling food to remain in your stomach for longer than it should.

This might occur as a result of post-operative complications or certain disorders.

Due to an increase in stomach contents, DGE puts enormous pressure on the LES, and research has established that DGE combined with a weaker LES is a sure-fire formula for GERD.

Irregular diet and lifestyle

Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, eating too many fatty and greasy meals like deep-fried dishes, and even taking too much aspirin can all raise your chance of getting GERD symptoms.

Obesity

People who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing GERD. While the reasons behind this are not fully understood, it is thought to be associated with increased abdominal pressure.

Risk factors and complications

Although GERD isn’t life-threatening in itself, chronic inflammation over a period of several weeks of the oesophagus can lead to more serious complications.

These include a constriction of the food pipe and open sores caused by acid burns, often known as oesophageal ulcers. If left undetected and untreated, these issues might diminish your appetite and even interfere with your sleep quality. 

The most serious risk of long-term GERD is the development of Barret’s Oesophagus.

This happens when the cells lining the oesophagus develop aberrant alterations as a result of recurrent interaction with stomach acid.

Barret’s Oesophagus increases your risk of acquiring oesophageal cancer.

GERD treatment

GERD can often be controlled with self-help measures. A few lifestyle and dietary changes can help ease the symptoms of GERD or even prevent the condition:

Quitting smoking
Avoiding alcohol
Losing weight if you are overweight
Eating smaller meals
Wearing loose-fitting clothes
Avoiding carbonated beverages
Refraining from lying down quickly after eating 
Sleeping with your upper torso slightly elevated 

If your symptoms persist and do not improve despite home cures, consult a doctor.

Diet and GERD

Clinical evidence indicates that some foods can make GERD symptoms worse. These include:

Citrus fruits and juices
Chocolate
Drinks or foods with caffeine
Fatty or fried foods
Garlic and onions
Alcoholic beverages
Peppermint
Spicy foods
Tomato-based foods

Final thoughts

If you have accepted acid reflux as a way of life, it’s time to reconsider. 

Make an appointment with a gastroenterologist — a doctor who specialises in treating and managing digestive issues – and start your journey to digestive health right away. 

It’s also highly recommended to take regular stomach tests to keep a check on your digestive health,  especially if you experience the symptoms of an unhealthy stomach, frequently.

Book The Complete Stomach Test Today!

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