GERD or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease happens when the contents from the stomach including the duodenum backflows or reflux towards the lower esophageal going to the esophagus without any acts of belching and vomiting. The muscle found at the end of the esophagus is unable to close appropriately causing the backflow of the contents thus results to irritation, heartburn and many more complaints.
Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease results to damage of the mucosa of the esophagus since the contents from the stomach that backflows are acidic. More so, the esophageal sphincter that serves to be the lock of the upper part of the stomach may not have been able to close properly or there is an abnormal relaxation of the sphincter. The presence of hiatal hernia may also lead to this disease in the long run. GERD may become permanent or transient depending on its cause and early detection and intervention.
The symptoms of GERD may vary among the adults and infants and children. Also, infants and children who have GERD may be hard to identify because some of them could not talk or could not express what they are exactly feeling.
For the adults, the following symptoms are common:
- Dysphagia or having difficulty in swallowing
- Regurgitation or the expulsion of food materials from the mouth
- Pain upon swallowing
- Chest pain (not common)
- Salivation has noticeably increased or known as water brash
Once the esophagus has already been affected and irritated, the following conditions may occur:
- Esophageal strictures or narrowing
- Reflux esophagitis
- Intestinal metaplasia
For children with esophageal reflux disease the following are noted:
- Spitting effortlessly
- Respiratory problems like wheezing
- Constant crying
- Refuses food
Basically, Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease is caused by a weak or abnormal muscle of the sphincter which is responsible for the closure of the bottom part of the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach. If this muscles become weak then chances are the stomach and duodenal contents like gastric acid and bile may backflow to the esophagus thus irritating the lining, causing inflammation leading to complications if not treated immediately.
Gastric Reflux may be caused by various factors although the main reason is the faulty lower esophageal sphincter, the cause of the weakened sphincter is still not totally identified. The increased pressure within the stomach may be a reason why the muscles weaken. In pregnancy, gastric reflux may be possible especially at the third trimester because the fetus is already pressing the stomach thus increasing pressure. However, the reflux disappears after birth and small frequent feeding helps during the pregnancy period. Eating habits may also be a factor particularly to those who eat a lot with big sizes. Take a food diary and write down the things you ate and which ones may have caused your reflux. Avoiding those foods will be of great help for you. Hiatal hernia is another where a part of the upper stomach protrudes to the chest via a tiny opening in the diaphragm. This may be a passage way for the gastric contents hence irritating the esophagus still.
The treatment for this disease may start from lifestyle modifications to medications and worst is surgery.
- Lifestyle modifications- studies support the idea that for those who have GERD, eating before bedtime should not be practiced. So, two hours before going to sleep, you should no longer take in food. Also, elevate the head of the bed or do not lie down immediately after eating. During sleeping time, elevate your head part of the time to help in preventing reflux. Furthermore, those who had GERD should sleep lying on the left side because this has something to do with the anatomical position of the stomach thus preventing night time backflow or reflux episodes.
- Drugs to treat GERD are available over the counter however it is very important that you consult your doctor in case you are not relieved with it. Some of the common medications are Proton pump inhibitors, antacids and sucralfate.
- Nissen fundoplication is the name of the surgical procedure performed for severe cases of GERD. In this procedure, the upper part of the stomach will wrap the sphincter thus strengthening it and at the same time prevents hernia.
Heartburn is that tight feeling of warmth and burning sensation within the chest and throat or behind the breastbone. There is this feeling that waves are moving inside and is painful. Most of the time, the pain gets worse when once the individual lies down and also after every meal.
Over the counter medications are available to relieve oneself from heartburn. Taking in antacids will neutralize the acidity of the stomach. However, be sure not to overuse the drug because it can lead to diarrhea or constipation. H2 Receptor Blocker drugs offer longer relief but works slower than antacids. On the other hand, proton pump inhibitor drugs stop the production of acid hence esophageal lining has ample amount of time to heal. 50 years old patients and above should not overuse this due to its possible complications.
GERD is a disease that damages your tissue linings in the esophagus however treatments for this are available so do not hesitate to ask medical assistance. Save yourself from food backflows.