If you get heartburn, feel bloated, become nauseous, burp a lot and/or taste a bitter acid in your mouth several times a week, you could have acid reflux disease, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You might just consider it a nuisance, but if it’s not treated, GERD could lead to some serious health issues. Make sure that you’re in-the-know with this expert advice.
- understand the causes of GERD
- learn the symptoms of GERD
- be aware of the risk factors of GERD
- make sure pregnant loved ones know about GERD
- wait to change your eating habits
- postpone modifying other lifestyle matters
- be afraid to learn the complications of GERD
- delay seeing your doctor
GERD can develop when the contents of your stomach, which are usually in a liquid form and contain acid, go back up into your esophagus instead of moving into your intestines. (Your esophagus is the path that your food takes from your mouth to your stomach.)
If the muscle at the end of your esophagus becomes weak and stays open too long, that’s when the fluid, sometimes called bile, can splash back up into the esophagus. If GERD happens regularly, it can eat away at the lining of your esophagus, which, in turn, can become damaged and cause health problems.
The symptoms of GERD can include:
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Clearing of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling full
When the muscle at the end of the esophagus doesn’t close quickly enough, food can also get into your trachea (windpipe), which can cause some of the above symptoms as well.
The risk factors of GERD mostly stem from lifestyle choices, although in a smaller number of cases, a weak esophageal muscle could be inherited. The risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Smoking tobacco
- Eating certain foods, such as citrus, chocolate, mint and/or spicy cuisine
- Eating large amounts of food at one time
- Lying flat in bed
- Not drinking enough water when taking pills
It’s very common for pregnant women to develop some GERD. Pregnancy causes estrogen to increase and, the higher levels of this hormone in a mother-to-be’s body may slow down the closing of that muscle at the end of the esophagus. This is usually a temporary condition, and will subside after a baby is born.
Modifying what you eat and the way you eat can dramatically improve GERD. A healthy weight is very important and so is avoiding the foods that trigger GERD. Additionally, eating small meals is better than one big meal, and not eating at least two hours before going to bed is also helpful.
The way you sleep can help or hurt you when it comes to GERD. Do not try to sleep on a flat surface. Having your head raised can aid in avoiding GERD at night. With your own doctor’s approval, over-the-counter medication can also help in some circumstances. Although stressful situations can make GERD seem worse, it’s not likely a cause of it.
Knowledge is power and that goes for understanding the complications of GERD as well. It’s not as though the difficulties will go away if you ignore them, and in fact, they could get worse. Untreated, GERD could cause an erosion of your esophagus, which in turn could cause ulcers or scar tissue to form or even cancer of the esophagus.
Getting medical help is crucial to keep you healthy. If your doctor thinks that you may have GERD, he or she will take a detailed medical history to figure out if your heartburn is serious. If over-the-counter antacids don’t do the trick then you may take prescription medicine. An endoscopy could be performed. The last resort is surgery, which could tighten the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus.
Sometimes we think that if we wait long enough, whatever symptoms we are having will just disappear. However, there is no reason to suffer needlessly if you have acid reflux that refuses to go away. Contact your doctor so that you can receive treatment and resume living life to the fullest.