GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is also known as heartburn. It occurs when the connective muscle (lower esophageal sphincter), which connects the stomach to the esophagus (food pipe), fails to do its job.
Its main function is to allow the food to pass into the stomach and protect the stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
But due to the relaxed sphincter, the excess acid surges up into the esophagus, which can cause a painful burning sensation known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn. Medicine such as ranitidine, Zantac are used to treat such types of stomach acid-related problems.
Yet there are various heartburn medicine lawsuits filed indicating that the long exposure of these drugs such as Zantac can increase the possibility of heart damage, stomach cancer, renal failure, acute kidney injury, bone fractures, etc. With such a huge impact, many victims filed for Zantac cancer lawsuits in recent times.
Symptoms Of GERD
Heartburn is the prime symptom of GERD. It is the burning sensation that is usually felt in the chest area. The pain can last for hours and often spreads from the root of the neck to the lower end of the rib cage.
Other Symptoms Of GERD Are:
- Hoarseness, particularly in the morning
- Sore throat or difficulty swallowing
- Tightness in your chest or upper abdomen
- Wheezing, coughing, or repeatedly needing to clear your throat
- Recurring sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- Backflow of stinging, sour, stomach fluids into your mouth
Your overall health, along with the description of other symptoms, is crucial for a proper diagnosis. The first step is to consult with your doctor, he or she may ask a few questions such as
- If the pain seems linked to stress or anxiety.
- The symptom accelerates after eating a particular diet or dietary troublemakers, which includes dairy products and high-fat foods.
- If lying down or bending over to tie your shoelaces aggravates the symptoms, etc.
For typical reflux symptoms such as swallowing problems or bleeding from the esophagus, your doctors may perform some diagnostic tests before starting any treatment.
Change in your daily diet and lifestyle are the foundation for treating the symptoms of GERD:
Eat Meals In Smaller Quantities: Instead of having a big meal, try to eat the food in smaller proportions throughout the day. It is because the large meal stays in the stomach for several hours and needs acid in excess quantity to digest the food.
Relax After Eating Your Meal: Make meals a delightful and relaxing experience as stress increases the production of acid in the stomach. Sit down, chew completely, and eat slowly.
Relaxation Therapies: Relaxation therapies such as yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation, or deep breathing, may help prevent heartburn.
Remain Upright After Eating: You must remain upright instead of bending over, lying down, strain to lift heavy objects, etc. for at least three hours after eating.
Avoid Acid Causing Food: Avoid foods that casing burn and trigger reflux such as milk, chocolate, spicy dishes,high-fat foods, tomatoes and tomato products, alcohol, mints, citrus fruits, coffee (including decaf) and tea, garlic, onions, etc.
Avoid Chewing Gum: Chewing gums increase the production of saliva and washing acid back down to the stomach.
Medications To Treat GERD
Various medications help treat heartburn symptoms, including:
Antacids remedies neutralize esophagus and digestive stomach acids. It is effective in the mile heartburn cases. Best consumption when symptoms occur or after a meal.
H2 Blockers (Histamine H2-receptor antagonists):
H2 blockers are used in long-term maintenance where lifestyle changes or antacids don’t affect the heartburn. It is widely available over the counter or by prescription. They act directly on the acid-secreting cells of the stomach and stem them from producing excess acid.
Proton Pump Inhibitors:
It is used for common, uncomplicated heartburn. They block the acid-producing enzymes and are easily available over the counter.
Prokinetic agents help to lean the excessive fluids and acids in the stomach. It also improves the muscle in the lower esophageal sphincter.
Herbal & Natural Remedies
Herbs and other natural remedies include:
Ginger plant’s root is well known for its herbal digestive aid. It is one of the best remedies for heartburn for centuries.
The easiest way to consume chamomile is in the form of tea. It has a soothing effect on the digestive tract.
Licorice helps to resist the irritating effects of stomach acid by increasing the mucous coating of the esophageal lining. It is available in the form of a pill or liquid.
In most of the cases of GERD, medications, and lifestyle changes can improve the overall health of a person. But in some extreme cases, surgery is the last option.
The operations eliminate the need for all kinds of GERD medications, and they are generally effective for tightening the lower esophageal sphincter.