Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also commonly referred to as acid reflux disease, is a condition where stomach acid is leaked back into the esophagus due to a problem with the “seal” that keeps stomach acid in the stomach and away from the esophagus. Many times, just a small leak in the lower esophageal sphincter can be enough to allow stomach acid to make its way out of the stomach. Obviously, this can be a very painful and uncomfortable experience, but luckily there are treatments available. Although this is a relatively new condition, there are plenty of different dietary and medicinal treatments available to help you deal with both the symptoms and the cause of acid reflux. In this article, we’ll talk about both to help you learn how to decide if you might suffer from GERD and what you can do to treat it.

Although gastroesophageal reflux disease often feels like heartburn, there are usually other symptoms associated with this condition. Some people will have a hard time swallowing or experience excess saliva. In other cases, you might actually feel the stomach acid come up through your throat. The burning from the stomach acid is usually extremely unpleasant and can cause gagging if left unchecked. Over time, the stomach acid that regurgitates can cause permanent damage, so it is important to get treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms.

If acid reflux disease is left unchecked, it can cause narrowing of the esophagus, which makes it extremely difficult to swallow and is very uncomfortable. Although this too can be treated and the symptoms will withdraw over time, in some cases it can become so extreme that a person must be admitted to the hospital to be fed via I.V.

To diagnose GERD, a doctor will usually do a combination of scans, such as X-Rays and EGD’s combined with a biopsy. There are also methods used where a scope will be inserted down the throat to check for damage. There are also pH tests that can monitor the amount of acid residue found in the throat.

Treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease involves a combination of dietary changes and medications to help with the symptoms. Studies suggest that coffee and alcohol can cause stomach acid levels to rise. The same is also said of Vitamin C (orange juice in particular) and spicy foods. Antacids are useful for helping the stomach acid to subside, which you can usually find in OTC varieties. You can also try switching to low fat diets and eating small meals, as large meals have a tendency to aggravate the stomach. Try to avoid eating at least two hours before bed, and avoid carbonated beverages and smoking if at all possible. Generally, you will be able to monitor which foods cause gastric outburst and which do not, so use your best judgment there.

There are also 5 or 6 different types of prescription medications that your doctor can give you to help with the symptoms. Some of these work to coat the esophagus to protect it from stomach acids, while others work to minimize the amount of acid produced by the stomach. There are also stronger forms of antacids that can be offered via prescription. Lastly, your doctor will probably use prescription medication to help heal the parts of your body damaged by the stomach acid. Although these medications will usually work to stop the symptoms, in many cases the problem returns once medication is ceased. Although taking medication for the rest of your life sounds like a hassle, it sure beats dealing with a burning esophagus. If you think you suffer from acid reflux, then talk to your doctor to get more information about your treatment options.

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Last updated on Apr 19th, 2009 and filed under Digestive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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