Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD, is a long-term digestive condition where gastric acids come up into the esophagus and impact LES and stomach.
Occasional acid reflux is normal as each one of us experience it at some stage in our lives. But if you’re experiencing symptoms every now and then, you may need to get yourself tested for GERD.
If you’re also experiencing regular occurrence of acid reflux, along with abdominal cramps, nausea, and bloating, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, we’ll help you understand the causes and symptoms of GERD, and how to treat this disease with some OTC medicines and diet and lifestyle changes.
What is GERD?
GERD, as we’ve mentioned above, is a long-term digestive disorder where gastric acids constantly flow up into the esophagus. This results in heartburn and many other symptoms, including tissue damage.
Symptoms of GERD
According to AGS, at least 15-million Americans experience heartburn daily. While heartburn is the main symptom of GERD, it’s not the only symptom.
Some other GERD-related symptoms include:
- respiratory disorders
- bad breath
- tooth decay
GERD occurs in people of all ages. However, pregnant women, obese individuals, people taking antidepressants, and smokers are in the high-risk bracket.
Untreated GERD can worsen and increases the risk of other possible illnesses, including:
- Esophagitis: it is an inflammation of the esophagus
- Barrett’s esophagus: It occurs when the cellular lining surrounding the esophagus can transform into the cellular lining surrounding the intestine. This can also result in cancer
- Esophageal Stricture: The esophagus becomes narrow, making swallowing difficult
- Other respiratory issues: Breathing stomach acids into the lungs can cause asthma, congestion, and even pneumonia
If you’re experiencing recurrent episodes of acid reflux, you should consult your GP. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist who’ll conduct various tests to examine your condition.
A gastroenterologist may recommend different tests to confirm the presence of GERD. These tests include:
Upper GI Endoscopy
Upper GI endoscopy is one of the most common diagnostic procedures used to identify the presence of inflammation. Your doctor will insert a tube with a camera and examine the inside of your stomach and esophagus.
Ambulatory Acid Probe Test
In the Ambulatory Acid Probe Test, a monitor is placed inside your esophagus to determine the regurgitation of the stomach acid.
Upper GI Series
This is a kind of an X-ray that displays abnormalities that might trigger GERD.
Esophageal Manometry is a process that measures muscle contractions in the esophagus while swallowing.
Upper Digestive System X-Ray
This X-Ray is taken after you consume a chalky liquid that enables your doctor to examine the lining of your esophagus.
Bravo Wireless PH Monitoring
This test involves a small capsule that will be attached to the esophagus. This capsule measures the levels of acidity for up to 48-hours.
GERD – Treatment
Doctors usually suggest lifestyle and dietary modifications before suggesting any medicines. The idea is to reduce the amount of reflux that is causing damage to the esophageal lining.
Your doctor may recommend the foods and beverages that are less acidic.
Foods That May Help Reduce Your Acid Reflux
As we’ve discussed above, acid reflux is an outcome of gastric acid touching the esophagus. This causes discomfort and cramping. If you feel acidity, these foods will help manage the symptoms of acid reflux and improve your quality of life.
Since vegetables are low in sugar and unhealthy fats, they may help reduce acid reflux inside the esophagus.
Leafy vegetables, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and asparagus are all healthy options.
Instead of using citrus fruits, it’s better to stick to less acidic fruit options that are rich in proteins, fibers, and minerals. Melons, apples, bananas, avocados, and pears should be included in your daily routine.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, pistachios, dates, cashew nuts, pinenuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts are all rich in proteins, antioxidants, and fiber. Similarly, seeds such as flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are all healthy and recommended options when it comes to preventing acid reflux.
Reduce your intake of saturated or trans fats. Consume healthier unsaturated fats present in nuts, seeds, or healthier oil options such as olive oil and sunflower oil.
Use low-fat meat like chicken, turkey, and various seafood varieties. Avoid deep-frying them and use them boiled, broiled, poached, or grilled.
Unless you’re suffering from an infectious form of esophagitis, high-fiber food is good to prevent GERD and acid reflux. Food rich in fiber includes whole grains, oat, several rice varieties, fruits, veggies, and nuts.
Recommended Lifestyle Changes
- Do not lie down for at least 2-hours after a meal
- Keep your head elevated using a pillow
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to promote digestion
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes
- Do a daily workout
- Manage your weight smartly
- Quit smoking
Some over-the-counter medications can also reduce the symptoms of GERD and acid reflux. These options include:
Proton pump inhibitors are one of the most effective pharmaceutical treatment options. The purpose of this medicine is to reduce the production of stomach acid.
Some other options include:
- H2 Blockers
Thankfully, in most cases, GERD can be successfully managed with OTC medications. But, if medications fail to provide the desired results, or if you want to avoid the long-term use of medicines, then your doctor might suggest some other options.
Fundoplication: The doctor wraps the top of the stomach. This helps in tightening the muscle and reducing reflux.
TIP: This is a fairly new procedure. It involves tightening the lower esophageal sphincter using propylene fasteners. There is no surgical incision involved, and the entire process is done through mouth with the help of a device called an endoscope.
Apart from that, the LINX device and other endoscopic procedures are also used to prevent acid reflux.
While GERD is manageable and rarely results in complications, it increases the risk of several other diseases if left untreated for a long time.
For instance, untreated GERD can convert into esophagitis, which can also cause ulcers and other acid-related illnesses.
Chronic scarring can also occur due to a narrowing of the esophagus.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The good thing is, with some minor lifestyle and dietary changes, you can prevent the occurrence of this disease in the first place.
Make sure you always eat on time. Don’t consume larger meals. Don’t lie down right after having lunch or dinner.
If you’re overweight, make sure you reduce your weight through a healthy and low-fat diet. Also, make sure to walk for at least 30-minutes.
When to See a Doctor?
While GERD can impact the quality of your life and cause discomfort, it is rarely life-threatening. We’ve discussed a few options above that can help you improve your life by better managing this disease through diet and lifestyle modifications.
But you should immediately seek medical assistance if your symptoms persist even after following these recommendations. There are services online for out of hours medical help in each country that can assist you in attaining the medication needed. In France you find help on this site, in the UK on nhs.uk for example.
We hope this guide has helped you identify some of your symptoms. If you still have any queries and suggestions, you can comment below.
Also, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if you’re not feeling well.
Stay Healthy, Stay Fit!