What is GERD?

GERD is an acronym for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. It is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach content or acid at times flows back into the esophagus, which is commonly known as your food pipe. The reflux, or rather the backwash, tends to irritate the lining of the esophagus causing GERD.

Heartburn and acid reflux is the most common digestive conditions that a lot of people will experience from time to time.

It is worth noting that when the signs mentioned above and symptoms appear at least twice each week, cause discomfort with your daily life, or when your doctor can see the damage caused to your esophagus, you most likely will be diagnosed with GERD.

How is GERD diagnosed?

A GERD diagnosis is based on a physical examination and the history of your signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors recommend the following:

Upper Endoscopy is used to examine the inside of your esophagus and stomach. A camera is inserted down your throat to see any possible damage as well as the capability to collect a biopsy. The biopsy is to collect a tissue sample for analysis. 

Ambulatory Acid or pH Probe Test is done by placing a monitor in your esophagus to see the duration it takes for the stomach acid to regurgitate there.

Esophageal Manometry test is aimed at measuring the rhythm of the muscle contractions in your esophagus when swallowing. It is also used to measure the coordination as well as the force exerted by esophageal muscles.

Upper Digestive System X-ray is done after drinking a chalky liquid that usually coats and fills the inside lining of the digestive tract. This will allow doctors to see a silhouette of your esophagus, stomach, and the upper intestine.

How is GERD treated?

GERD treatment can be approached in many ways; they include:

  1. Lifestyle Medicine or Lifestyle Modifications
  2. Over-the-counter Medications
  3. Prescription Medications
  4. Surgery and other procedures
  5. Alternative medicine

Lifestyle Medicine or Lifestyle Modifications

GERD Lifestyle Modifications - Heartburn and GERD Guide

The frequency of the acid reflux may be reduced by applying the following lifestyle changes to reduce your GERD symptoms

Healthy Weight Maintenance: being overweight will put pressure on your abdomen, and therefore pushing your stomach to the extent of causing acid reflux into your esophagus.

Elevating the Head of your Bed: This is for those who experience heartburn while sleeping.

Avoid Smoking: Smoking decreases the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to function correctly.

Avoid lying down after eating: you are supposed to wait at least 3 hours before lying down or going to sleep after a meal.

Chewing food slowly when eating: make it a habit to eat food slowly while chewing thoroughly.

Avoid Foods and Drinks triggering reflux: the most common ones are fatty foods, alcohol, mint, tomato sauce, chocolate, onion, garlic, and caffeine.

Avoid wearing tight clothes: clothes that fit tightly around your waist are known to put a lot of pressure on your abdomen as well as the lower esophageal sphincter.

Over-the-counter Medications

The following over-the-counter medications are viable:

Stomach Antacids: offer quick relief but will never heal an inflamed esophagus that is damaged by acid reflux from the stomach. Cautionary measures should also be taken into consideration because overuse may cause side effects like kidney problems and diarrhea.

Medications that reduce acid production are known as H-2-Receptor Blockers and include; cimetide, famotidine, and nizatidine.

Take medications blocking acid production hence healing the esophagus: they are referred to as Proton Pump Inhibitors. They are much stronger than H-2-Receptor Blockers, and therefore allow time for damaged tissues of the esophagus to heal. They include; omeprazole and Lansoprazole.

Prescribed Medications

GERD prescription treatments that are very strong include:

Prescription-Strength H-2-Receptor Blockers: these are nizatidine and famotidine. They are known to be well-tolerated.

Prescription-Strength Proton Pump Inhibitors: examples are; Lansoprazole, esomeprazole, pantoprazole, and rabeprazole.

Medications that strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter: an example would be Baclofen, which eases GERD by reducing the frequency of relaxation s of the lower esophageal sphincter.

Surgery and Other Procedures

Generally speaking, GERD can be managed with medications. But, in case the medications are not helpful, or if anyone wishes to avoid long-time use of drugs; you may be recommended the following options:

Fundoplication is a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure during which a surgeon wraps the top of your stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to tighten the muscles, hence preventing reflux.

LINX Device: This device can be implanted using minimally invasive surgery and involves wrapping a ring of tiny magnetic beads around the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The magnetic attraction that occurs between the beads is usually strong enough to keep the junction closed to refluxing acid at the same time, allowing food to pass through.

Alternative Medicine

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It is worth noting that there are no alternative medicine therapies that have been proved to provide treatment for GERD or reversing the damage that is generally caused to the esophagus.

Some therapies, both complementary and alternative, might provide some relief, especially in combination with your doctor`s care. These options are:

Relaxation Therapies: these are techniques employed to calm stress and anxiety. They might reduce the signs and symptoms of GERD.

Herbal Remedies: they are at times used to ease GERD. Licorice and chamomile are some of them.

What are the Diet Changes for GERD?

Some foods will encourage the symptoms of GERD, while others will reduce them. That`s why you would be well advised to take foods that will help you when combating with GERD.

In some cases, you will be advised to eat certain foods less often, while in other situations, you will be encouraged to avoid them altogether.

It should be noted that when your esophagus is damaged from GERD, it would be prudent if you avoid foods that will irritate this sensitive tissue hence causing further damage.

The following are foods to consider when having GERD:

FRUITS: non-citrus fruits such as bananas, apples, melons, and pears are advisable to take. Avoid taking citrus fruits and juices from oranges and lemons.

VEGETABLES: you are free to select from a wide variety of vegetables. But, you should reduce sauces and toppings that are known to be high in fat. Also, avoid other irritants like onions and tomatoes.

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: whole-grained carbohydrates such as oatmeal, rice, whole bread, and couscous are very healthy and helpful because they add fiber to your diet. Potatoes and other root vegetables are also excellent and great sources of healthy carbohydrates and digestible fiber. Know more about health

HEALTHY FATS: basically, avoid or reduce saturated fats that come from meat and dairy. Avoid trans fats, which are found in processed foods, shortenings, and margarine. Just try replacing them, especially in a moderate way win unsaturated fats from plants and fish.

LEAN PROTEINS: it would be advisable to choose lean meats that are poached, broiled, grilled, or baked.

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The following are certain foods and beverages to avoid when having GERD:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Caffeine
  3. Alcohol
  4. Carbonated Beverages
  5. Garlic
  6. Onions
  7. Mints
  8. Citrus fruits and juices