What you need to know about gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Ever felt that your heart is on fire ? No, not that feeling of being in love, but literal heart burn. It happens to many of us, especially after a huge, spicy meal or when you lie down to sleep after eating. This sensation is called heartburn, and it usually goes away on it own with the help of an over- the- counter antacid tablet.
For many people, heartburns occur once in a while, but for some it can become a frequent problem. People who experience heartburn often may be dealing with a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

what is GERD ?

GERD is a digestive disease in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining. This occurs when acid or bile flows into the food pipe and irritates the lining.

Causes of GERD

GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux. When one swallows, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into the stomach. Then the sphincter closes again. If the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. This constant back wash of acid irritates the lining of the esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.

Symptoms of GERD

Common signs and symptoms of GERD include :

  • a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) usually after eating
  • chest pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • regurgitation of food
  • sensation of a lump in the throat

At night, one might experience certain symptoms if he or she has GERD. These symptoms are ;

  • chronic cough
  • laryngitis
  • disrupted sleep
  • worsening asthma

what are the risk factors of GERD ? 

  • Obesity
  • pregnancy
  • smoking
  • delayed stomach emptying
  • eating large meals or eating late at night
  • drinking alcohol or coffee
  • medications such as aspirin

How can GERD BE TREATED?

GERD is treated with medications such as proton pump inhibitors. They decrease the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
Other options include :

  • H2 blockers: these decrease acid production
  • Antacids 
  • Prokinetics : these help the stomach empty faster.

Prevention 

Other lifestyle and behavior changes can help relieve GERD include:

  • Eating moderate amounts of food and avoid overeating.
  • Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before sleeping.
  • Quit or avoid smoking.
  • If a person is overweight, losing weight can help prevent symptoms.
  • Do not wear clothing that is tight around the abdomen.
  • Sleep at a slight angle with the head slightly elevated.
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