gastroesophageal reflux diseaseis a condition in which stomach contents back up into the esophagus (throat) causing symptoms such as belching, bloating, and nausea after eating. Usually, the lower esophageal sphincter prevents this from happening, but it causes a burning sensation when this sphincter is put under pressure and partially digested food and stomach acid flow into your throat.
Foods such as onions and garlic, and beverages such as alcohol, coffee, and carbonated beverages can cause or exacerbate reflux symptoms, and acidic foods, including citrus fruits, can make the stomach condition more acidic. However what causes reflux And what symptoms should you watch out for? Read on to learn, including ways to treat this condition.
What is GERD (Acid Reflux)?
GERD is characterized by frequent bouts of heartburn, regurgitation of food or stomach acid, and sometimes chest pain and nausea. Those who are overweight or obese, smokers, and pregnant women are more likely to experience GERD symptoms, and they can sometimes occur as a side effect of medication.
A number of people rely on antacids to control heartburn, but these do not cure the underlying condition. Many people take medications such as antacids that neutralize stomach acid or drugs that reduce stomach acid (known as histamine blockers) to relieve symptoms, but these will not heal an inflamed esophagus that has been damaged by stomach acid. Others may be prescribed proton pump inhibitors, which are stronger acid blockers and allow time for damaged esophageal tissue to heal. Sometimes doctors may recommend surgery.
GERD symptoms are experienced by 14-20% of adults, making it a common problem. These include a burning sensation in the chest and throat, often accompanied by bloating, belching, and nausea after meals. While for many these symptoms are troublesome, in some cases they can have serious consequences such as esophagitis, ulcers, aspiration pneumonia and Barrett’s esophagus – a condition that results from inflammation and scarring due to excess acid narrowing the esophagus. The most important symptoms for GERD are;
- Burning sensation in the chest (also known as heartburn): usually occurs after eating and may be worse at night or when lying down
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- upper abdominal or chest pain
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
How Can You Treat GERD?
The most effective treatments for GERD include the use of proton pump inhibitors and laparoscopic fundoplication (keyhole procedure), along with lifestyle changes, according to one review. Endoscopic treatments have been shown to be less effective.
Diet, in particular, is an effective way to control GERD, with dietary changes listed as treatment. It shows that non-pharmacological treatments such as dietary management are currently considered the best way to manage GERD and should be tried before considering pharmaceuticals or surgery.