GERD symptoms are commonly due to reflux of stomach contents back into the mouth or throat.
GERD otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder that occurs because of stomach acids or, in some cases, bile refluxes or flows back into the esophagus or food pipe. This results to irritation of the esophageal lining and causes signs and symptoms of GERD.
Signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux include heartburn and acid reflux. Both are digestive conditions that commonly experienced by people from time to time. In cases where these symptoms affects the individual frequently or at least twice or thrice a week that it interferes with the patient’s activities of daily living, this is referred by physicians as GERD.
In most cases, the discomfort brought about by heartburn is managed through over-the-counter medications or lifestyle changes. However, people affected by GERD may only acquire temporary relief through these methods. Treatment for GERD symptoms may involve the use of stronger medications and even surgery.
Causes of GERD Symptoms
The exact cause for the occurrence of GERD symptoms is unknown. However, several factors exist that may relax or weaken the lower esophageal sphincter resulting to reflux. Normally, the muscle around the bottom of the esophagus known as the esophageal sphincter, relaxes allowing liquid or food to flow down into the stomach. And after which closes again. However, the esophageal sphincter may sometimes weaken or becomes abnormal. This results to the back flow of stomach contents into the esophagus and eventually, heartburn. Frequent heartburn that causes disruption in a person’s activities of daily living is known as GERD. Recurrent reflux may irritate the esophagus which may lead to complications such as: breathing problems, bleeding, or inflammation.
A common factor that may lead to the development of GERD is through lifestyle. Individuals who are fond of slouching or have poor posture, obese, and uses cigarettes or alcohol are more prone to develop GERD. The use of medications such as: antihistamine, nitrates, theophylline, and calcium channel blockers are also most likely to have the disorder.
Diet and eating habits also plays a part in the disorder’s occurrence. An individual who often eats soon before sleeping or bedtime as well as, whom loves to eat large meals are also at risk. Eating mint flavorings, spicy foods, foods high in acid content, drinking caffeine, onions, garlic, chocolate, fried foods, and fatty foods also increases the risk. In some cases, GERD may be a result of medical conditions such as: rapid weight gain, diabetes, pregnancy, and hiatal hernia.
One of the most common GERD Symptoms is persistent heartburn. Heartburn is the feeling of burning pain behind the breastbone or center of the chest. It usually begins in the upper abdomen and later moves up into the area of the neck. Usually, the pain may last from several minutes to two hours. Heartburn is commonly worse after eating and bending over and lying down can make it worse.
Other symptoms of GERD include: wheezing, feeling of tightness in the throat, hoarseness, persistent dry cough, regurgitation into the throat while bending over or sleeping, or a bitter taste in the mouth. In children, common symptoms usually involve respiratory problems, coughing, and repeated vomiting.
Treatment of GERD Symptoms
Changing the patient’s lifestyle is one of the most effective treatment methods for GERD. This involves avoiding beverages and foods that triggers the symptoms as well as changing eating habits. This includes: eating frequent small meals throughout the day, quitting smoking, raising the bed when lying or sleeping, avoiding eating before bedtime or lying down, avoid wearing tight belts or clothing, losing weight, and asking a physician about medications taken, if they may trigger heartburn.
In most cases, treatment for GERD may involve two methods for better prognosis. The most common of which is changing the patient’s lifestyle with the use of over-the-counter medications in controlling the symptoms of the disorder. Common medications for GERD are antacids such as: Riopan, Rolaids, Mylanta, Maalox, or Alka-Seltzer. These medications neutralize the acids in the stomach. However, these medications should be taken with caution as they may cause constipation or diarrhea. But certain antacids are available that can prevent the occurrence of complications. These are antacids that contain both aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide.
There are cases wherein antacids aren’t effective enough. In this case, the physician may prescribe other medications such as: foaming agents to coat the stomach therefore preventing reflux, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors to decrease the production of acid, and prokinetics to strengthen the esophageal sphincter as well as reduce acid reflux and empties the stomach faster.
In severe cases, the physician may recommend surgery to treat the patient’s GERD Symptoms. The surgeon may perform a procedure known as fundoplication. Fundoplication involves the creation of an artificial valve. The surgeon wraps the stomach’s upper part around the esophageal sphincter in order to strengthen it, therefore preventing reflux of acid.