Some people ignore gastric symptoms like heartburn, but it could be a sign of a chronic acid reflux if it keeps recurring. When this becomes frequent, one may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease or what is commonly known as GERD.
So what exactly is GERD?
The disease occurs when the acids from the stomach find their way up Esophagus. This happens when the sphincter that links the stomach and the esophagus is often open. The sphincter is a ring of muscles that is referred to as Lower Esophagus Sphincter (LES). As the acids get into the Esophagus, you will feel a sense of burning sensation or what is commonly referred to as the heartburn although it does not affect the heart. Another common symptom of GERD is a sour taste of food in your mouth. Hiccups are also a symptom.
The good news is, GERD is treatable.it is also preventable. But it is important to note that, if left untreated for long, it can cause esophagus ulcers or even put you at the risk of getting throat cancer. In America, the disease affects about 20% of the population. Some of the preventive measures include;
Eating your meal in small bits
No matter how hungry you are, avoid eating a large amount of food. Filling your stomach too much will open up the LES giving the stomach acids a path for moving up. Instead, focus on eating sizeable meals several times a day.
Avoid certain medication
Some medications are known to irritate the esophagus, and some interfere with the normal digestive system while others can trigger the opening of LES. Such drugs should be avoided by all patients who experience repeated heartburn. Such drugs include aspirin, some medication such as albuterol taken by asthmatic people, ibuprofen, and certain muscle relaxers. While avoiding such prescribed drugs is important in reducing the intensity of the acids, you should always consult your physician before you stop using them.
Lose some weight
The excessive stomach fats that are found in overweight and obese people push the acidic stomach juices up the esophagus. Losing weight will help prevent the acids from coming up your throat. And for those who are not overweight, keep watching your weight to avoid possible future heartburn or GERD.
When pregnant, the acids come up your esophagus almost naturally because your stomach is already under pressure. Heartburns are thus common in expectant mothers. But whether you are pregnant or not, avoid tight belts around your belly, they aid in pushing gastric juices up.
Avoid lying down immediately after meals and elevate your bed
Gravity helps prevent the acids from coming up your esophagus because the LES is closed under the influence of gravity. Lying down after a meal will make it easy for the acids to flow upwards because when you are in a horizontal position, then the stomach, LES, and esophagus are not under the force of gravity. Take some hours before going to bed.
It is also advisable to use some blocks or any other means possible to elevate your bed so that when you sleep, gravity can still play a part. Note that using lots of pillows will not help as your whole body needs to be elevated.
Avoid foods and beverages that trigger heartburn
Foods such as tomatoes and their sauces, garlic, peppermint, fatty and fried food are known to be triggers. Same applies to drinks such as coffee and carbonated drinks. Alcohol should also be avoided and so is smoking.
Though rare, surgery is at times an option. But usually, your doctor will give you some anti-acid medication which is always effective. Treating GERD requires a change in lifestyle. Thus the above measures, when followed correctly, will bring your gastrointestinal problems to an end.
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