Knowing what is GERD may help in understanding why you are suffering from distressful symptoms affecting the esophagus and stomach.
GERD is actually an acronym for GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease, a disorder causing acid indigestion and heartburn involving the esophageal sphincter muscle, a circular piece of muscle located between the stomach and esophagus.
However, when heartburn is severe and accompanied by other problematic issues, medication or even surgery may be necessary.
What Is GERD and What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux, is a condition where the contents of the stomach flow upward into the esophageous rather than remaining in the stomach.
Because the stomach contains strong acids with which to break down food and facilitate absorption in the intestines, the highly acidic liquid pushing back into the esophageous burns the lining of the esophageous, which is not made of the same acid-resistance lining constituting the stomach.
During the normal digestive process, the esophageal sphincter muscle opens so that food can enter the stomach. It then closes to prevent food and acid from seeping into the esophageous.
When this muscle flap is not strong enough to remain closed, “acid reflux” occurs, causing intense burning in the esophageal tube.
A List of the GERD Symptoms?
Experiencing persistent acid indigestion that happens regardless of what food you eat is an initial symptom defining what is GERD.
Other GERD symptoms include:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Pain while swallowing, especially past the back of the throat
- Frequent coughing
- Regurgitation of food
- Wheezing or hoarseness
- Feeling like there is a lump in the throat
- Acid reflux that interferes with sleep
- Feeling like one is having a heart attack
Some people lose weight when suffering from GERD because eating worsens the symptoms.
Being aware of what is GERD may prevent your health from needlessly deteriorating when symptoms of acid reflux present themselves but you are not sure what is causing them.
A List of the Causes of GERD and Risk Conditions for getting GERD
While the primary cause of GERD is a dysfunctional esophageal sphincter muscle, certain things will exacerbate GERD, such as eating fatty or fried foods, chocolate and drinking alcohol or coffee.
A link between smoking and what is acid reflux symptomology may exist as well. Individuals are also at risk for acid reflux disorder when they are:
- Suffering from a hiatal hernia
- Have a connective tissue disorder (scleroderma)
- Have been diagnosed with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
Bad GERD Foods to Avoid
A common belief about what is GERD is that eating spicy foods is actually causing acid reflux disorder.
However, spicy foods are not the cause of GERD, but may exacerbate symptoms in some people but not all.
Consuming food of any kind usually worsens GERD symptoms simply because there is something in the stomach, which the esophageal sphincter muscle can allow back up into the esophagus.
Any acid reflux food to avoid generally includes food that may cause a severe burning sensation in the chest area, such as:
- Tomato-based foods (spaghetti sauce, ketchup)
- Raw onions
- Salad dressings
- Orange juice
- Dairy products (especially at bedtime)
In addition, some medications may prevent the stomach from emptying itself after eating, allowing a weak esophageal sphincter muscle to open and cause an influx of acid into the esophagus.
Tetracycline, iron and potassium supplements, ibuprofen and codeine are all medications that may worsen GERD symptoms.
What is GERD and Its Link to Asthma?
Asthmatic individuals seem to experience esophageal sphincter abnormalities more than those who do not suffer from asthma. Physicians think that acid reflux disorder may actually induce asthma symptoms in several ways.
Because GERD can irritate lungs by potentially causing inhalation of acid droplets, airways within the lungs may undergo intense spasmodic activity, triggering a persistent cough and eventually an asthma attack.
Regurgitated stomach acid also irritates esophagus linings, capable of dissolving enough of the lining to expose nerve endings that affect bronchial processes. By aggravating nerve endings, airways could experience spasms as well, provoking asthma attacks and other GERD symptoms.
What is Acid Reflux and Hiatal Hernia: The Migrating Stomach
A hiatal hernia exists when a part of the stomach moves into the chest area through an opening in the muscles that divide the stomach from the chest.
This muscle, or diaphragm, is vital to breathing, which is why people with hiatal hernias sometimes experience difficulty breathing. In addition, this similarity in symptoms to acid reflex is why the difference between what is GERD and what is a hiatal hernia is sometimes blurred.
Doctors are not sure why hiatal hernias occur, but believe it is due to weak supportive tissues losing strength as a person ages, becomes obese or persists in smoking.
Those over 50 years of age frequently suffer from hiatal hernias, which produces symptoms almost exactly like acid reflux disorder. Additionally, it is not the hiatal hernia that causes symptoms of heartburn, chest pain and difficulty in swallowing, but the acid reflux facilitated by the presence of a hiatal hernia.
Tests required to detect a hiatal hernia include an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or an x-ray taken after the patient has swallowed barium. Complications from an untreated hiatal hernia are pulmonary aspiration, strangulation of the hernia and iron deficiency anemia.
So, What Are the GERD Treatment Options?
Reducing the amount of acid reflux is the goal of any GERD treatment program.
When this acid continuously pours into the esophagus, the lining will eventually dissolve and may produce a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which is a detrimental change in the esophageal lining that could increase the risk of developing cancer.
In addition, untreated GERD continuously inflames the esophageal lining, which also causes scar tissue to accumulate.
Consequently, this narrows the esophagus, making it harder for the person to swallow.
Other GERD treatment advice includes:
- Avoid wearing clothes that fit tightly around the waist
- Don’t bend over after eating a meal
- Avoid lying on your stomach after eating
- Eat small meals during the day instead of three large ones
- Lose weight
- Try sleeping with your head elevated about five or six inches
- Eat at least three hours before going to bed
Antacids provide temporary help but often exert side effects such as constipation, diarrhea or a change in calcium metabolism, which is how the body breaks down and absorbs calcium.
Some popular prescription medications for treating GERD are Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec and Prevacid.
Using a GERD Diet to Alleviate Symptoms of GERD
Basics of a GERD diet involve eating mostly fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grain items.
Lean meat such as fish and poultry are also foods that should be included in a GERD diet.
Other aspects of a natural cure for GERD are:
- Consuming no more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat
- Eating small portions
- Taking in less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day
- Limiting salt to no more than 2400 milligrams per day
- Reducing caloric intake if overweight
- Drinking plenty of water
Foods Capable of Alleviating Symptoms of GERD are:
- Baked potato
- Herbal teas
- Rice cakes
- Graham crackers
Because saliva effectively neutralizes stomach acid, chewing sugar-free gum after eating may alleviate some of the symptoms of GERD. Chewing gum stimulates saliva secretion and encourages peristalsis, which is the relaxing/contracting action of the muscles that move stomach contents into the intestines where absorption takes place.
By helping food leave the stomach quicker, the chance of it being forced into the esophagus lessens.
Other Natural Cures for GERD
Many people suffering from GERD seem to respond well to natural remedies.
Other natural cures for GERD that may provide relief include:
- Eating an apples before going to bed–apple juice seems to help neutralize stomach acid
- Drinking ginger or chamomile tea with food or after a meal
- Drinking aloe vera, potato or cabbage juice
- Taking two or three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar each day
Baking soda contains alkaline, a natural stomach acid neutralizer which makes it an effective treatment for heartburn.
Stir in one half teaspoon of baking soda in a warm glass of water and add several drops of lemon juice before drinking for relief from acid reflux.
GERD Surgery as the Final Option When Nothing Else Works
What is GERD surgery?
When someone does not respond to GERD treatment and symptoms continue to worsen, GERD surgery may be the only option available to avoid complications.
The Nissen fundoplication is the most frequent procedure implemented to reduce GERD symptoms.
Knowledge of what is GERD and its process is applied during a fundoplication operation in which the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped around the distal esophagus, effectively inhibiting backflow of acid from the stomach.
As a minimally invasive operation, the Nissen fundoplication requires only a small incision in which to perform the surgery, leaving patients with little pain and spending less time in the hospital.
According to LapSurg.org, almost 90 percent of people undergoing a laparoscopic fundoplication suffer no GERD symptoms following the operation.
By facilitating emptying of the stomach contents into the digestive tract and enhancing peristalsis, this procedure also alleviates GERD-induced asthma attacks in many patients as well.
However, GERD surgery should be the last resort for those suffering from acid reflux symptoms.
Understanding what is GERD and following guidelines concerning a natural cure for GERD is best because of the health benefits received from eating nutritious foods and losing weight. The healthier life style increases the quality of life and eliminates the need to make life-altering decisions regarding surgery.
What Would You Like to Read Now After This Article on What Is GERD?
What Is Acid Reflux and What Is GERD? Acid Reflux Symptoms Is Phase One – GERD Pain Is Phase Two
GERD Symptoms In-Depth and Dietary Tips to Lessen Symptoms of GERD
Typical and Severe Symptoms of GERD: Dealing with Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease
A Long List of Symptoms of Acid Reflux and an Explanation of the Similar GERD Symptoms
Natural GERD Treatment: Healthy GERD Diet & Foods to Avoid with GERD
Acid Reflux Treatment Options: Going for a Natural Cure for GERD or GERD Mediations?
GERD Surgery or Acid Reflux Surgery: How to Treat GERD When all Other Options Fail
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