Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common chronic disease, but often progressive, that affects about 30% of Americans according to a 2014 study. Most people who suffer from GERD can control this through lifestyle changes and medication. Apart from making necessary changes to lifestyle, however, it is essential to know the deeper factors of what it is like to live with GERD and what contributes to it.
What is GERD and its symptoms?
A weak lower esophageal sphincter causes gastroesophageal disease (GERD). The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a clump of muscles below the esophagus which prevents acid and stomach contents from traveling from the stomach back to the esophagus. The esophagus spasms when acid reaches it, making the chest painful and tight; a sensation called heartburn which could also be a sign of more serious condition. Therefore, when the lower esophageal sphincter is weak, a person is likely to suffer symptoms that point to GERD. These symptoms include nausea and vomiting, dysphagia, tooth erosion, bad breath, swallowing difficulties, abdominal pain, and respiratory problems among others.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is highly recommended to make simple life changes to ease the symptoms of GERD. Maintaining a healthy weight, the right proportion of meals, and avowing smoking as well as exposure to secondhand smoke are a few simple lifestyle changes that could merit comfort from GERD symptoms or prevent it from happening at all.
It is essential to consult a doctor right away when you are often experiencing acid reflux, chest pain, or heartburn instead of diagnosing and treating yourself alone. Diagnosis for GERD includes physical exam and screening of your food intake. There are other tests to figure out and measure where the acidity and chest pain is coming. Tests conducted include ambulatory acid probe test, x-rays, endoscopy, and manometry. These tests will probe the symptoms you are exhibiting so you could properly get the right medication and attention.
If you don’t get relief from medication or lifestyle changes, you may also consider surgery or surgical treatment options common for GERD. Surgery available for GERD includes Fundoplication and LINX reflux management system. Fundoplication is a surgical procedure where the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped and sutured around the lower end of the esophagus to treat the reflux of stomach substances to the esophagus.
LINX reflux management system, on the other hand, is a procedure where a device is implanted around the esophagus, just above the stomach to help the LES resist opening to gastric pressures. This device is a small flexible band of interlinked titanium that beads with magnetic attraction. Surgical treatment may come at a price, and it would also help to avail some of the heartburn and GERD drug coupons for your treatment process.
A Closer Look to Lifestyle Changes
Given that surgical options may come at a hefty price, a closer look to lifestyle changes is always a good choice not just in treating GERD but for overall health. GERD is mostly preventable with a few lifestyle changes that you could start practicing and incorporating in your day to day activities.
Food and Diet
Lifestyle modifications focused on the diet, for instance, can help avoid it. Avoid spicy and fatty foods as they may trigger acid reflux. Acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes are also on the list along with carbonated drinks, coffee, caffeinated beverage, chocolate as well as mint. You should also cut back on alcohol as it can cause the esophageal muscles to spasm. Do not put pressure on your stomach by consuming large heavy meals; it is best to be in proportion with your diet and take smaller meals.
When eating, do make it a point to slow down. By slowing down your eating, less food will end up in your stomach at a time. After eating, it is also best to wait at least three hours before lying down on the bed. Do not lie down after eating as gravity is part of the equation in keeping acid reflux from developing down your stomach to your esophagus.
Try to go for a gluten-free diet such as rice, cassava, corn, potato, beans sorghum, and soy among many others. These starch-containing foods that are naturally gluten-free will help you avoid the discomfort from proteins found in foods with gluten such as wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten does not cause GERD, but a gluten-free diet is a suggestion in the treatment of acid reflux disease. Some people become sick when they eat foods containing protein gluten; they suffer a condition known as a celiac disease whose symptoms resemble that of GERD.
Resting and Comfort
When sleeping, try to elevate your bed by raising the head of your bed to about six to eight inches. Don’t just use extra pillows, use wedge support for this instead. It is essential that the entire body is elevated to get the relief. This way can help keep gastric acid down in your stomach relevant to putting gravity in the equation of your acid reflux. As for clothing, wear something loose or make sure that your stomach does not get constricted.
These are a few ways to alleviate the symptoms of GERD, but it is also vital that you review your medications so that your risk of GERD will not increase.