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Thursday, 15 February 2018

What is gastroesophageal reflux and how to treat it?

Gastroesophageal reflux is the return of stomach contents into the esophagus. This occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus does not close properly.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle valve between the esophagus and the stomach. Many people suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD. In most cases, it can be alleviated by changes in diet and lifestyle; however, some people may require medication or surgery.

What are your symptoms?

Common signs and symptoms of GERD include a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which may get worse during the night; chest pain; difficulty to swallow; regurgitation of food or sour liquid and a feeling of a lump in the throat. You may also experience chronic cough, laryngitis, new or worsening asthma, and interrupted sleep.

When to see a doctor?

Seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw or arm. These can be signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms or take over-the-counter heartburn medications more than twice a week.

What other factors contribute to the disease?

Diet and lifestyle can encourage the development of GERD. Certain foods and beverages, such as chocolate, mint, fried or fatty foods, coffee or alcoholic beverages, can trigger reflux and heartburn. Obesity and pregnancy can also play an important role in the symptoms of GERD.

What is your treatment?

Doctors recommend changes in lifestyle and diet for most people who need treatment for GERD. The goal is to decrease the amount of reflux or reduce damage to the lining of the esophagus. To do this, you must take into account the following:

- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing the acid to flow back into the esophagus.

- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to function properly.

- Elevate the head of your bed. If you regularly experience heartburn when trying to sleep, place blocks of wood or cement under the foot of the bed so that the end of your head rises between 6 and 9 inches. If you can not raise your bed, you can insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to raise your body from the waist up. Lifting the head with additional pillows is not effective.

- Do not lie down after a meal. Wait at least three hours after eating before going to bed.

- Eat food slowly and chew well. Lower the fork after each bite and remove it once you have chewed and swallowed.

- Avoid foods and drinks that cause reflux. Common triggers include fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions and caffeine.

- Avoid tight clothing. The clothing that fits tightly around your waist puts pressure on your abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter.

Although GERD can limit daily activities and productivity, it rarely endangers life. With an understanding of the causes and proper treatment, most people will find relief. Remember that taking care of your health depends on you.

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