Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or Acid Reflux, is a chronic disease that causes the stomach acid and other contents in the stomach to frequently flow back to the oesophagus.

Reports show that over 15million Americans suffer heartburn daily and 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month.

Many people occasionally experience Acid Regurgitation but when it becomes regular and occurs more than twice a week, then you might have GERD.

Acid Reflux can lead to further complications if not attended to.



Risk Factors For Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD

Certain conditions may increase your chances of having GERD.
They include:

1. Hiatal Hernia: Hiatal Hernia is a condition that weakens the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which is a muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach, and makes it relax when it shouldn’t, hence allowing the stomach’s content to move back into the oesophagus.

2. Obesity which increases pressure on the abdomen.

3. Pregnancy.

4. Eating Late At Night.

5. Taking Painkillers, sedatives and Anti-depressant Medications like Aspirin.

6. Smoking.

7. Taking Alcohol.

8. Drinking Beverages like Coffee.

9. Eating Fatty and Fried Foods.

10. Diseases like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

11. High consumption of Table Salt.

12. Laying Down after Eating.


Symptoms Of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease


Common symptoms of GERD include:

1. Heartburn, is the most common symptom of GERD and usually gets worse after eating.

2. A Sour or Bitter Taste

3. Breathing Issues like Asthma and Chronic Cough.

4. Difficulty Swallowing.

5. Inability to Sleep

6. Laryngitis

7. Vomiting

8. Regurgitation of Food and Liquid from your stomach to your mouth.

9. Chest Pain

10. A Lump in your throat.


Lifestyle Changes


Lifestyle changes that help relieve GERD symptoms include:

1. Stop Smoking

2. Lose weight if you have obesity or you are overweight

3. Don’t wear tight clothes

4. Do not eat 2-3 hours before sleeping daily

5. Eat moderate meals and chew your food thoroughly while eating slowly.

6. Stop using tight belts, it increases pressure on your abdomen.

Diet Changes

To avoid the relaxation of your LES, stay away from these foods:

– Coffee

– Chocolate

– Pepper

– Citrus Fruits

– Tomato Products

– Alcoholic Beverages

– Soda

– Tea

– Onion and Garlic

-Foods with Excess Fat

– Acidic Juices


Complications Of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

If left untreated, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can cause:

– Esophageal Ulcer

– Respiratory Problems: If you breathe stomach acid into your lungs, diseases like asthma and chronic cough emerges.

– Esophageal Stricture: It causes the tightening of your oesophagus

– Esophagitis: inflammation of your oesophagus.

– Barrett’s Esophagus.

– Esophageal Cancer.

Diagnosis Of GERD

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

The ways of diagnosing GERD include:

– X- rays: X-rays are taken after you drink a chalky liquid substance called barium, that coats and fills your digestive tract and gives your doctor a clearer picture of your oesophagus, upper intestine and stomach.

The procedure is also called the barium swallow radio-graph.

– pH testing: This is a process whereby a monitor is connected to a small device that is strapped on your shoulder and worn around your waist and is placed in your oesophagus to dictate its regurgitation process.
The monitor called a catheter is sent to your oesophagus through your nose and is excreted as stool after two days.
A capsule-like device might also be attached to the wall of your oesophagus to measure your acidity.

This test measures the acidity of your stomach over 48 hours.

Esophageal Manometry: This test measures the pressure and muscle contractions in your oesophagus while swallowing.
It also checks the force and coordination used by the muscles of the oesophagus and the strength of the sphincter.

This test which is also called oesophagal motility testing might require your doctor to pass a long, thin and flexible tube through your nose Into your oesophagus to measure how it pushes acid upward.

This test takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Upper Endoscopy: During this test, a doctor inserts a thin and tiny tube called an endoscope which has a camera down to your throat to inspect your stomach and oesophagus for possible damage.

This test which lasts for about 20 minutes, may detect other complications like esophagitis and Barrett’s oesophagus and can also be used for a biopsy if your doctor needs to take out a small sample of tissue.


Treatment Of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease


Medications that will help to relieve the symptoms of GERD include:

Prokinetics: These are medications that empty the stomach faster.
Overuse of prokinetics might lead to side effects such as anxiety and nausea.

Antacids: They help to stop heartburn and remove acid in the stomach and oesophagus.
Examples of antacids include Tums and Rolaids.
Abuse of antacids might cause side effects like kidney disease and diarrhoea.

H2 Blockers: It decreases acid production.
Examples of H2 blockers include nizatidine, famotidine and cimetidine.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): reduces the damages caused by GERD in the body
Examples of PPIs include omeprazole and lansoprazole.

Other procedures that might provide relief to GED apart from medications include:

1. Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication.

2. Herbal Remedies like Chamomile.

3. Gaviscon which is the most common heartburn therapy.

4. Relaxation Therapy

5. Linx Surgery

6. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).