Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where the contents of the stomach escapes from the stomach and seeps back into the esophagus. This causes irritation of the esophagus and result to heartburn and other symptoms.
Causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease
When eating, the food passes via the throat and moves down the stomach and through the esophagus. A ring of muscle fibers found in the lower esophagus prevents the swallowed food from returning back up which is known as the lower esophageal sphincter. Once this ring fails to close, the contents of the stomach can leak into the esophagus which is called reflux. Remember that the stomach acids can damage the lining of the esophagus.
Factors that increases the risk for reflux include hiatal hernia which is a condition where part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm. Sometimes, consumption of alcohol can lead to reflux. Overweight, pregnancy and smoking can also cause a reflux.
Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Heartburn or a burning pain can be felt in the chest
- Nausea after eating
- A sensation that a food is stuck behind the breastbone
- Regurgitation or bringing food back up
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing and wheezing
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice
- Symptoms become worse especially when bending over or lying down and after eating.
- Symptoms are worse at night time
- Maintain a healthy weight since extra weight can put pressure on the abdomen. This pushes the stomach up and cause the acid to back up into the esophagus.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes especially around the waist to prevent pressure on the abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Avoid consuming foods that can cause heartburn such as fatty or fried foods, alcohol, tomato, chocolate, garlic, onion, mint and caffeine.
- Eat smaller meals and avoid overeating
- Avoid lying down after eating a meal. It is recommended to wait at least 3 hours after eating.
- Elevate the head of the bed to help minimize heartburn at night. Place wood or cement blocks under the feet of the bed to raise the bed at least 6-9 inches.
- Avoid smoking since it lessens the function of the lower esophageal sphincter. If this valve weakens, the stomach acid will flow back up into the esophagus and result to heartburn.
- If the person is overweight or obese, he/she should cut down some weight.
- Take acetaminophen to help lessen pain but avoid medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Take all the prescribed medications along with water.
Seek medical help immediately if there is bleeding, frequent vomiting, coughing, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, trouble swallowing and weight loss.