What is Acid Reflux and GERD?
Acid reflux, otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux or acid regurgitation, occurs when the stomach content moves up back into your esophagus. When acid reflux becomes recurrent, then you may be said to have a condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease-GERD. According to medical research, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease affects about 25% of the world’s population and could lead to severe complications if left untreated.
Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- The major symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is the burning sensation of the chest, which can sometimes take over your neck and bring severe discomfort and pain. This process of discomfort and burning sensation in the chest is also known as heartburn.
- In addition, people who complain about heartburn symptoms also tend to develop bitter or sour tastes behind their mouths, which can be the leading cause for the constant regurgitation of food and liquid from the stomach into the mouth.
- Another slightly noticeable symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is difficulty swallowing, which can lead to breathing issues, especially in people with asthma. It can also worsen breathing problems which may later lead to complications.
Causes of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Naturally, there is a circular band of muscle that sits at the end of the esophagus in every human being. This circular band is known as the lower esophageal sphincter. When the esophageal sphincter functions properly, it relaxes itself and opens up wide for you to be able to swallow and tightens up on the food or liquid that is being swallowed before finally closing up. This process is repeated at every point of swallowing in the human body.
However, when the lower esophageal sphincter does not tighten up on your food and does not close up properly after swallowing, then you can be said to be suffering from Acid Reflux.
Treatment Options for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The onset of the treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a lifestyle and food adjustment. When a person is diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, the doctor might suggest a change in patients’ eating habits and other lifestyles that could bring more Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease risks.
While on the other hand, over-the-counter medication can be prescribed, some of which include
- H2 receptor blockers
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
In few cases, stronger over-the-counter medications like H2 receptor blockers or pump proton inhibitors may be prescribed, depending on the severity of the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Though some over-the-counter medications come with side effects, but not without carrying out their jobs first.
When Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease becomes recurrent, with painful episodes, and comes with severe complications like trouble breathing, especially in people with asthma, surgery can be recommended.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Surgery
Some other treatment options like over-the-counter medications and lifestyle and eating adjustments are capable of eliminating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. However, when complications set in with severe and recurrent symptoms, surgery is advised. In other words, your doctor may suggest surgery if changes to lifestyle and feeding habits as well as over-the-counter medications do not stop or relief the symptoms of the disease. Surgery could also be suggested if Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease gets complicated.
Diagnosing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
When your doctor suspects you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, they will proceed to conduct a physical examination on you and ask you about any symptoms you have been experiencing and for how long it has been there. One or more of the following processes can be used to confirm that you are actually suffering from the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or check for the severity of the disease;
- Barium swallow; you will be asked to drink a barium solution, then an x-ray is carried out on you to check your upper digestive tracts.
- Upper endoscopy; this process involves the lowering of a tiny camera into your esophagus in order to examine it and get a sample if needed. This collection of samples is what is known as a biopsy.
- Esophageal manometry; this involves the lowering of a flexible tube into your esophagus in other to measure your esophageal muscle strength.
- Esophageal Ph monitoring; a monitor is lowered into your esophagus to monitor how and when the stomach acid comes up back into your throat.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Young Children and Infants
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can begin as early as 4 months old in infants. Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can affect infants of this age grade, and about 10% of 1-year olds suffer from it as well.
Because infants and young children cannot express themselves in the best ways they can for you to understand, it is best to consult your doctor when you notice any unusual form of vomiting, especially when it becomes frequent. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease could cause the child to keep spitting out foods while vomiting in the process.
Other obvious signs and symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in infants and young children include;
- Choking and gargling
- Trouble swallowing
- Rejection of food due to discomfort
- Irritation during or after food
- Wet hiccups or burps
- Backache during or after feeding
- Poor growth leading to weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping both in the day and at night
- Recurring severe cough
When infants show one or more of these symptoms, or when young children who are able to express their feelings in the best way they can complain of the symptoms, they can be said to have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It is prudent to consult your doctor when you notice any Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease symptoms or any other illness symptoms in your infant or young child.
Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Some popular factors that increase your risks of developing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease include lifestyle factors and sometimes other underlying health issues. Some of the risk factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease include;
- Hiatal hernia
- Connective tissues disorder
Lifestyle factors that could heighten your Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease risks include;
- Eating large meals
- Eating some types of foods like spicy foods and deep-fried foods
- Drinking some kinds of beverages like soda, alcohol, and coffee
- Sleeping immediately after eating meals
- Using drugs like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin
If you engage yourself in any of the above-listed risk factors, it is best to stop them and take steps that would help you prevent Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and its complications.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Complications
Not all cases of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease lead to complications. However, in few cases, the disease can lead to severe and life-threatening health issues. The complications of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease may include;
- Barret’s esophagus; is characterized by the total change of the esophagus lining.
- Esophagitis; is also known as the inflammation of the esophagus
- Esophageal cancer; this cancer develops more in people with Barret’s esophagus
- Esophageal stricture; this involves the unnecessary tightening or narrowing of the esophagus
- Asthma, severe cough, and other breathing difficulties which may develop from breathing the acid from the stomach into the lungs
- Dental issues like tooth enamel erosion and gum disease
In order to reduce your Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease complications, it is important to take steps to prevent its symptoms.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet
Some foods and drinks have been discovered to trigger Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Some of these foods include;
- High-fat foods
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
Home Remedies for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Quit smoking
- Chew gum after food
- Lose weight
- Avoid tight clothes
- Relax more often eat smaller meals at once
- Avoid lying down immediately after a meal
Natural Remedies for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Slippery root
- Marshmallow root
- Licorice root
Some people experience relief from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease after taking certain supplements and teas that are made from herbs. However, research has unraveled that some of these herbal remedies may cause side effects or, worst of all, interfere with certain drugs.
Difference Between Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Heart Burn
Heartburn is a kind of acid reflux and can happen to anybody. Sometimes, heartburn is not a cause for alarm. But if you experience heartburn frequently, say about two times a week, then you need to see your doctor.
This Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, on the other hand, is also a kind of acid reflux, but a more severe one that needs monitoring. Complications of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease could be life-threatening.
In conclusion, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease comes with discomfort and pain, and recurrent cases should be reported at the hospital for proper treatment and prevention of complications.