Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (also known as GERD) can be dangerous if left untreated. GERD is caused by stomach contents such as acid and liver bile coming back up the esophagus. This can lead to the following symptoms: heartburn (burning sensation in the chest and if severe in throat), chest pain, nausea, trouble swallowing, sour taste in the mouth, coughing, and voice hoarseness. If left untreated chronic GERD can lead to the following conditions: Barrett’s Esophagus (which can lead to Esophageal Cancer), Ulcers, Esophagitis, Strictures in the Esophagus, Aspiration Pneumonia, and Respiratory Infections.
Lifestyle changes can definitely help a person with GERD. GERD tends to be more harmful at night. If acid resides in your esophagus for a long period of time, erosion of the lining of the esophagus can occur. In addition, acid residing in the teeth can cause tooth erosion, and cavities. When a person lays flat, the position of gravity changes, making it easier for liquid to reflux back up the esophagus. Elevating your bed with a 6-inch wedge block of wood under the length of your headboard, will prevent reflux.
Smaller, more frequent meals leads to better digestion. Eating at an earlier time about four to five hours before you have your dinner, will assist in less reflux when you go to sleep at night. Alcohol, beverages containing caffeine, chocolate, tomato-based and citrus -based foods, should be avoided in people with GERD. Smoking, obesity, pregnancy, and wearing tight fitting clothes around the abdomen, can also attribute to GERD.
Antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, Gastroesophageal motility medications can help alleviate symptoms of GERD. Yogurt which is a basic food should be encouraged in GERD patients. Treatment is essential in GERD, as ignoring the disease can lead to complications. In severe cases where medications do not alleviate symptoms or other esophageal conditions develop, and a patient’s weight is affected, surgery is usually recommended. GERD can be intolerably painful, when not treated. To prevent progression of the disease, diagnosis is crucial by a Gastroenterologist.
GERD can be diagnosed through Endoscopy, ph testing of the Esophagus, and through Barium Swallow (also known as Upper GI Series). Lifestyle changes and medications are most helpful in coping with this chronic condition. There is hope for people suffering with GERD!