Many people experience the beginnings of full-blown GERD and do not even realize what is GERD! They attribute the cause as heartburn or indigestion. Mistaking either of these for GERD is dangerous. So what is GERD? Gastroesophageal reflux disease of GERD is a serious condition where partially digested food, stomach acids and bile can back up into the esophagus causing much discomfort and long term damage to the esophagus. There is a sphincter between the stomach and esophagus and a loosening over time of this sphincter is what allows the reflux to occur. The causes and treatments of GERD are better understood and there are successful methods to treat GERD. Learning the cause and symptoms of GERD will help you better understand the treatments available to you. You will soon be asking not what is GERD, but how can I treat my GERD!
Why is gastroesophageal reflux disease dangerous?
The stomach has a special protective lining against the strong acids and enzymes that digest food. This same protection is not present in the esophagus. As partially digested food backs up into the esophagus these very same acids can damage the lining of the esophagus leading to pain and difficulty swallowing.
What are the symptoms of GERD?
GERD is often referred to as heartburn, acid reflux, or acid indigestion. What can be occasional heartburn might really be the onset of full-blown GERD. Also, the condition of gastroesophageal reflux is very closely associated with hiatal hernias. This type of hernia is not rare and affects 10-15% of all Americans and my not display any symptoms, but nearly 80% of GERD sufferers have a hiatal hernia. If you have been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, then you must be extra-vigilant to avoid GERD.
What are some non-medical treatments for GERD?
There are several basic things that can be done to avoid stressing the esophageal sphincter that do not require medical intervention. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are both bad. These activities cause the sphincter to loosen and may cause additional likelihood of reflux. Overeating is another no-no as it puts increased pressure on the stomach that can stress the connection to the esophagus and also cause more pain. There are also foods that help reduce stomach acids! Obesity also causes pressure, as does tight clothing. Try to shed some extra pounds and dress comfortably. Avoid eating within a few hours of bedtime. As you lie in bed, the acid can more easily back up into the esophagus causing pain and sleepless nights.
What are the medical treatments for GERD?
One of the quickest treatments involves hiatal hernia repair if it is determined that this is the cause of the gastroesophageal reflux. This is achieved quickly with minor surgery. Non-surgical approaches involve medications. The most common medicine is a type of histamine blocker which lessens the production of stomach acids. Common over-the-counter medicines that achieve this are Zantac, Pepcid, or Tagamet. There are more powerful prescription medicines as well that may be prescribed at a doctor's recommendation.
Understanding what is GERD is the first step in understanding if GERD treatments are a possibility. Consult a physician to evaluate treatment options. Gastroesophageal reflux disease does not have to control you or your life. You can beat GERD!