Everything You Need to Know About GERD and Some Helpful Treatment Tips
Have you experienced indigestion that just won't go away? You may be suffering from a common condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Everyone experiences periodic reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus, but these episodes are usually brief and infrequent. When these episodes become more frequent or prolonged, acid and other stomach contents can cause frequent or persistent symptoms (regurgitation, heartburn, acid indigestion, swallowing difficulty, cough) and can damage the lining of the esophagus. Thankfully, many patients with mild, infrequent reflux symptoms can be successfully treated with lifestyle and dietary changes alone. However, in patients with moderate to severe GERD, medication is commonly used to control the disease.
What do you need to know if you think you may have GERD?
- Esophageal reflux occurs when the lower esophageal valve (sphincter) opens inappropriately. The healthy esophagus has a lower esophageal sphincter that opens to allow food to enter the stomach and closes to prevent regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus. If the sphincter functions poorly, reflux occurs, and GERD can result.
- A hiatal hernia may be a contributing factor. The normal diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen) pinches the end of the esophagus and provides another mechanism to reduce reflux into the esophagus. If the diaphragm opening has enlarged, the upper part of the stomach can migrate into the chest and allow esophageal reflux to occur. Obesity, age, forceful vomiting, and pregnancy are some risk factors for hiatal hernia.
- Many dietary and lifestyle factors contribute to reflux. Pregnancy (hormone related), obesity, high fat meals, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, smoking, and certain medications can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to function poorly and promote reflux.
If you think you suffer from GERD, you’re not alone; over 60 million Americans experience reflux at least once a month and 15 million suffer daily. If you have GERD, altering your diet and lifestyle can be very beneficial. Avoid foods known to trigger reflux symptoms. Eat smaller portions and fewer fatty foods. Weight loss, when appropriate, greatly reduces reflux episodes. If these measures are not enough, take the next step and seek help from the professionals at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants.
Texas Digestive Disease Consultants | GERD | https://www.tddctx.com/
Edited By: Michael Nunez, MD