October 26, 2010

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Severe chronic heartburn can be diagnosed as a condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It happens when the lower esophageal sphincter – the muscle at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach – becomes too relaxed.? Normally, the sphincter only allows things like food and liquids to flow one direction – into the stomach.? A sphincter that isn’t functioning properly allows stomach acids to enter into the esophagus causing damage and pain.


Symptoms of GERD generally occur when lying down after eating, when lifting or bending over to get an object, or after consuming a large meal.? Symptoms include:

  • Heartburn: A burning pain in your chest or throat
  • Regurgitation: Acid backing up into your throat or mouth. Often accompanied by burping and a bitter taste.


Medications: Certain medications can aggravate GERD.? They include:

  • NSAID pain relievers (ibuprofen and aspirin)
  • Dietary supplements (potassium, calcium, iron tablets)

Hormonal Changes: Often, pregnant women suffer from heart burn as a result of changes in the balance of hormones.? The sphincter is partially controlled by hormones, and when there is a change it can disrupt the contraction of the muscle.

Foods: ?Though no one food can be pointed to as a definitive cause of GERD or heartburn, certain foods have a higher occurrence rate than others.? Things like caffeine, alcohol, garlic, onion and mint cause reflux frequently.? However everyone has their own specific food triggers and should avoid those that cause heartburn or contribute to GERD.

Health Issues: Some diabetes sufferers have been known to also have GERD.? It comes as a result of a condition called gastroparesis, in which the stomach delays in emptying itself causing a pressure build up, which results in reflux.? Obesity can also lead to GERD as extra weight puts added pressure on the abdomen, causing reflux.? Also, a condition called Hiatal Hernia is known to worsen the symptoms of GERD, but is not directly connected to causing GERD.? It occurs when a portion of the stomach becomes displaced, either forced into the esophagus or up next to it.

Habits:? Certain day to day habits can cause or exacerbate GERD.? Smoking slows the lower esophageal sphincter down, causing acid to back up from the stomach.? Wearing tight fitting clothes can place too much pressure on the stomach, causing reflux.? Even eating or lying down too close to bed time can cause heartburn.


The majority of GERD sufferers can manage the condition with medication and simple diet changes.? Over the counter antacids or prescription drugs can help diminish the symptoms of GERD.? Keeping a food journal and eliminating foods that cause heartburn can also help.? Even changing daily habits like quitting smoking can change the condition dramatically.

In severe cases where none of these approaches are successful surgery can be beneficial.? Most people can do the procedure laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive.? It involves suturing a portion of the stomach around the esophagus, tightening around the sphincter and preventing acid from backing up.? However, not everyone with GERD is a candidate for laparoscopic surgery.? Some will require a laparotomy, which involves opening the abdomen, and others will need a thoracotomy, which involves opening the chest.

For more on GERD and some holisitic solutions, please read our Reflux Remedy Report.

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