GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a common digestive problem that can cause heartburn and other symptoms. This article explores GERD and addresses common questions having this condition often triggers.
What is GERD, and what are the symptoms?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive problem that can cause heartburn when the acid from your stomach travels back up into your esophagus to burn your throat, chest, or mouth. GERD mainly occurs in adults over 40 years of age; however, it can affect anyone.
- Pain behind the lower sternum, upper abdominal tenderness with weight lifting.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Inability to alleviate painful food/liquids sitting in the chest.
- Regurgitation of food.
What causes GERD?
A variety of things cause GERD. Some of the most common causes are eating certain foods, smoking, drinking alcohol, or being overweight. GERD can also be caused by problems like a hiatal hernia when the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm. It can also be caused by a problem with the valve between the stomach and esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
This valve typically opens to allow food to pass from the stomach into the esophagus and then closes to keep acid from refluxing back up. If the LES doesn't close tightly or opens too often, acid can reflux back up into the esophagus, which causes gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms.
What are the complications of GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to other problems like esophagitis, ulcers, and even esophagus cancer. It can cause Barrett's esophagus, which is a condition where the lining of the esophagus changes, making it more likely to develop cancer. GERD can also lead to difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia.
Can GERD be prevented?
Yes, GERD can often be prevented by making some lifestyle changes, including:
- Eating a healthy diet that avoids acidic and greasy foods
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Avoiding lying down after eating
- Raising the head of your bed 6-8 inches to sleep
Foods to avoid if you have GERD
Avoid certain foods that trigger symptoms. Some of the most common food include:
- Acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits
- Greasy or fatty foods
- Spicy foods
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can also be triggered by eating large meals, lying down after eating or wearing tight clothing. It's essential to avoid these triggers and eat smaller, more frequent meals instead.
What are common treatments for GERD?
There are a variety of treatments for GERD, which include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
Lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for GERD and often work well in controlling symptoms. Some of the best ways to prevent GERD include: eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, losing weight if you are overweight, and avoiding lying down after eating. You can also raise the head of your bed 6-8 inches to sleep.
Medications like antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can be prescribed to help reduce the amount of acid in your stomach.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is usually only recommended for people with GERD that isn't responding to other treatments or for people who have complications like Barrett's esophagus or esophageal ulcers.
What types of surgery are there for GERD?
The most common surgeries are laparoscopic fundoplication and Nissen fundoplication.
Laparoscopic fundoplication is a surgery that wraps the top of the stomach around the esophagus to help keep acid from refluxing. This surgery is usually done laparoscopically, which is done through small incisions in the abdomen.
Nissen fundoplication is a surgery that sews the upper part of the stomach to the diaphragm to help keep acid from refluxing. This surgery is usually done through a large incision in the abdomen.
The most common complications from GERD surgery include difficulty swallowing, gas bloat syndrome, and heartburn. If you are considering GERD surgery, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits to see if it is the proper treatment.
GI Associates & Endoscopy Can Help With GERD
GI Associates can help with diagnosis treatments and help you take control of your GI health. Contact us if you'd like to see a physician or have more questions. We treat all gastrointestinal issues and disorders with quality, comprehensive care.