GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)also known as acid reflux happens when the digestive acids in our stomach; travel back up the food tract or esophagus.
This is not an abnormal thing; it happens now and then but when it becomes too frequent, over time it leads to GERD.
Causes Of GERD And Effective Methods For Prevention
There is this valve-like structure at the end of our food tract that is supposed to open, to let the food into the stomach and then close, to prevent backflow.
This valve is called the sphincter, aka LES ( Lower Esophageal Sphincter) so when it fails to close the tract after the food gets in or opens up undue, it causes the digestive fluids to travel back up the tract and damage the tissue.
How to prevent GERD?
- Lie down to your left: when you lie down to your left, the contents in your stomach are away from the valve, this helps in reducing the chances of the acid traveling back up the tract.
- Don’t go to bed immediately after having a meal: your stomach is the most active when you just had your food, it’s secreting all these digestive enzymes to break down the food; it is better to be standing or sitting when this is happening.
- It’s healthy to wait at least three hours before lying down as it gives enough time to move the food from the stomach to the small intestine.
- Stop drinking and smoking: These habits tend to disrupt the normal functioning of the sphincter.
- Elevating the head of your bed: This is a very basic concept, elevating the head of your bed up to four to eight inches prevents food and digestive juices from moving upwards.
- Have a healthy weight: Being overweight puts you at risk of getting GERD as it puts pressure on your stomach and sphincter.
- Try weight loss diets and exercises and always maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay clear from these foods: caffeine, peppermint, chocolates, tomatoes, onions, citrus fruits, spicy foods, and fatty foods; these tend to trigger acid reflux.
- Eat small and well: small meals are better digested than large meals, chew well while eating, it helps in digestion and prevents you from eating a lot.
- Do not wear tight clothes: wearing clothes that are tight around your abdomen will tend to squeeze your stomach pushing acid up the esophagus.
- Heartburn: don’t let the name misguide you, it’s not related to the heart; it’s a burning sensation in your chest that might move up your throat, caused by acid reflux.
- Sore throat: as the inflammation spreads into your throat it becomes hoarse and sore.
- Chest pain
- Regurgitation: food comes back up the throat after eating.
- Bad breath
- Dysphagia: difficulty in swallowing food.
- Wearing of tooth enamel: as an effect of acid reactions
Factors that increase the chances of getting GERD:
- Hiatal hernia: the diaphragm has a small opening called hiatal, the upper part of your stomach bulges and pushes through this hiatal towards the chest. This bulging allows the acids to pass through the sphincter.
- Being overweight: this increases the pressure on the stomach often weakening the ability of the sphincter to prevent the acids from moving up the esophagus, being overweight might also lead to a hiatal hernia.
- Medications like painkillers, anti-depressants, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sedatives are said to weaken the sphincter.
- Antacids: these are available as tablets or liquids which help in neutralizing the acids to relieve us from heartburn. These meds can only provide temporary relief.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): block major pathways of acid production and provide enough time for the esophagus to heal.
- Histamine blockers: also known as H2-blockers include meds like famotidine, cimetidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine. They work by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach which provides relief from heartburn.
Surgery is the permanent cure for GERD, when lifestyle modifications and medications aint helping or you are fed up with taking meds for a lifetime; then the solution is surgery.
The sphincter is enhanced to do its job using different methods. These are laparoscopic surgeries which doesn’t need much recovery time.
- LINX device: with the use of magnets, the sphincter is closed to prevent the acid from flowing upwards.
- A ring of magnetic beads is surgically placed around the esophageal sphincter to keep it closed but not tight enough to prevent food from entering.
- These magnets wouldn’t stop you at security clearances.
- Fundoplication: this is a surgical method in which the upper curve of the stomach is used to wrap around the esophagus to strengthen the valve. This wrapping is done completely or partially. This is the most common surgery used to treat GERD.
- Nissen Fundoplication: complete wrapping around the esophagus.
- Toupet Fundoplication: partial wrapping of 270°
- Dor Anterior Fundoplication: partial wrapping of 180 to 200°
- Thal Anterior Fundoplication: partial wrapping of 270°
- Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication: this is done using an endoscope, a device that allows doctors to see the insides of our body.
- A special device with polypropylene fasteners is inserted inside and these fasteners are used to create a partial wrap around the esophagus.
- This is done through our mouth which gives it the term ‘transoral’ and no cuts are made, thus ‘incisionless’.
- Esophagitis: This affects the esophagus or the food pipe, acid washes up from the stomach and damages the lining of the esophagus causing inflammation, irritation, swelling, and bleeding. Esophagitis can lead to difficult and painful swallowing, chest pain, heartburn, and food getting stuck while swallowing.
- Esophageal Stricture: Esophagitis when left untreated leads to esophageal stricture or narrowing of the esophagus. The damage to the lining produces scar tissues on the lower end of the esophagus which will make it difficult to swallow food and in severe cases, even liquids wouldn’t pass through.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: GERD left untreated over time leads to Barrett’s esophagus where the soft pink lining of the esophagus near the sphincter is replaced with a red thick lining which disrupts the normal functioning of the valve; unattended this might even lead to cancer.
- Lung Inflammation: the digestive acids travel up the esophagus into the lungs causing lung inflammation and bronchospasm.
Dr. Edward Zelman works as a general health practitioner with an expertise of over 15 years, helping more than thousands to get back in complete health through his research-proven treatments. He earned his Masters from Harvard University and completed his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Dr. Edward Zelman is one of the notable names in the medical industry for his work in weight loss support, heart health, and so on. He is also a former faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At present, Dr. Edward Zelman is researching safe and effective natural remedies that can restore as well as maintain the youthful functioning of the body.