Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is a common problem of the gut. It is a painful long-term condition characterized by irritation of the lining of your esophagus due to stomach acid backwash leading to a sharp burning sensation in the chest which at times is difficult to manage. It affects people of all ages but symptoms can vary from person to person. Around 18.1% to 28.7% of people have GERD. Almost 1 in 5 people experience symptoms of GERD every day in the US. If you experience low stomach acid symptoms, you will need to consult with a physician near you.
What Is GERD?
Do you sometimes wake up with a sour taste in your mouth and a burning sensation in the esophagus that feels like heartburn? It might be an indication of GERD. GERD is a digestive system condition in which the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The condition is constant, recurring, and long-term. The esophagus is a tube that connects the mouth to the stomach and helps to pass food from the oral cavity to the stomach. Acids in the tube cause heartburn which is the most prominent feature of GERD.
It can be painful, disturbing, and can affect one’s daily routine because of the excruciating symptoms.
Prevalence Of GERD
GERD is common in both genders, however, it is more prevalent in females. The prevalence rate is 16.7% in females whereas it is 16.7% in males. The symptoms in elderly patients are few but the condition is severe.
What Causes GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD happens when the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus. Normally, this is not how it works. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) – a valve that links the stomach and esophagus, becomes too weak to close or the muscles of the LES relax way too much that it can not prevent the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus.
What Are The Symptoms To Look For?
GERD can be unsettling for some people because of the severity of symptoms they experience. Some of which are:
- Burning sensation in the chest
- Chest pain
- The sensation of a lump in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food or sour items
The symptoms can aggravate in cases where an individual already has an underlying medical condition.
Night Time GERD And Its Effects On Sleep Quality
Acid Reflux or GERD at night is relentless and disturbing at the same time. People with nighttime GERD experience more severe symptoms in comparison to those with daytime GERD. They are at a high risk of developing a chronic cough, laryngitis, difficulty sleeping, etc. Nighttime GERD leaves acid in the esophagus for a longer time than daytime GERD, which has more damaging effects on the esophagus. One reason for this lasting damage is gravity, as you lie down, there is no effect of gravity that can pull the contents back into the stomach after some time like that during the daytime GERD.
Nighttime GERD is not only disturbing but it can also have a severe impact on your sleep pattern. People with nighttime GERD tend to stay up because of the symptoms which are then only relieved by taking the prescribed medicines. A lack of sleep combined with distress and agony contributes to low quality of life.
In order to have a good night’s sleep, we should try to avoid the symptoms as much as possible. One way to relieve the symptoms is to keep your head elevated to avoid acid reflux. The appropriate bed height is 6 to 8 inches because at this height gravity takes over and decreases the movement of acid from the stomach to the esophagus.
What Are Some Of The Risk Factors Associated With GERD?
Some of the risk factors associated with GERD are:
- Hiatal hernia
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
- Medications and supplements
- Pregnant women
What Are The Triggers Of GERD?
There are various triggering factors of GERD which can exacerbate the condition. It is better to keep an eye on the triggering factors so that the condition can be managed easily. Some of the triggers include:
- Eating large meals
- Eating late at night
- Taking certain medicines
- Drinking certain beverages
- Certain foods like garlic, onion, black pepper, green or red chilies, etc.
Complications Of GERD
Constant severe symptoms of GERD can lead to complications that may be difficult to manage. Some of the complications include:
- Stricture (narrowing of the esophagus)
- Barret’s esophagus
Is Ginger Good For Acid Reflux?
This question has been invariably there for a long time and researchers are still trying to figure out the relationship between ginger and acid reflux. While medications and lifestyle modification can help curb the symptoms of GERD, certain other home remedies are also effective in managing acid reflux. Likewise, a natural remedy like ginger is effective in managing heartburn. It acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It helps to reduce gastrointestinal irritation by preventing acid flow back into the esophagus.
Nonetheless, researchers are still working on finding the answer to the question “Is ginger good for acid reflux?
How To Tackle GERD?
Whenever you encounter a GERD attack, the first thing is to keep yourself calm by taking deep breaths. This reduces the anxiety that kicks in with such conditions. Some of the ways to handle the symptoms of GERD include:
- Avoiding foods that trigger the condition
- Drinking cold milk to relieve heartburn
- Not laying down right after eating
- Avoiding vigorous exercise after a meal as it may send back acid into the esophagus
- Quit smoking
- Keep your head elevated while sleeping
- Follow the prescribed treatment plan by your physician
How Long Does Acid Reflux Take To Heal?
The healing time of acid reflux depends on the severity of the symptoms. For some people, the symptoms may resolve within an hour or two, whereas for others, the symptoms may keep recurring unless it is managed through proper medication. If you have heartburn symptoms at least twice a week then it may be GERD that is causing the discomfort.
Low Stomach Acid Symptoms:
Low stomach acid a.k.a hypochlorhydria is a condition when there is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid or HCL is important in protecting the lining of the stomach. It helps to break down and absorb nutrients and also eliminates bacteria and viruses from the stomach. It acts as a protective barrier.
When HCL is low in the stomach, some symptoms that appear are:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Protein deficiency
- Deficiency of vitamins like B-12
Acid Reflux & Back Pain:
People with GERD often complain of back pain. It is not uncommon to experience symptoms in other parts of the body as a result of GERD. To ease the symptoms of acid reflux (back pain), your doctor may prescribe certain pain-relieving medicines.
How Does GERD Affect Daily Life Activities?
As painful and distressing the condition is, it can have a huge impact on one’s daily life. With GERD, even the simplest tasks seem impossible to perform. Since the symptoms of GERD include heartburn and chest pain, the muscles tighten up and the body is in a taut state. This can in turn lead to poor sleep quality because of frequent regurgitation, altered eating habits, lowered productivity levels at work, mood, etc. GERD also increases the risk of esophageal cancer. The constant flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus destroys the esophageal lining, this condition is known as Barret’s esophagus, which increases the chances of developing oesophageal cancer.
GERD And Obstructive Apnea – What Is The Link?
Research shows a link between GERD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It happens when the airway gets choked by soft tissue at the back of the throat. When you encounter an attack of sleep apnea, the lung pressure changes which causes acid reflux.
How Are GERD And Asthma Related?
The exact link between Asthma and GERD is uncertain. However, the nerves in the lower part of the esophagus connect to the lungs which means the backflow of acid in the esophagus has an effect on the lungs as well. It triggers asthma.
What Role Does Diet Play In Managing GERD?
Diet plays a huge role in curbing the symptoms of GERD. Apart from managing the symptoms through medications, certain lifestyle modifications can bring a positive change. The goal is to create a healthy meal plan that is GERD-friendly and also enjoyable.
Questions like “How long does acid reflux take to heal?” can only be answered by what you put in your body. Incorporating a mix of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates is a healthy option that not only is fulfilling but also good to ease the symptoms of GERD. Avoiding large meals, especially late at night, can reduce the chances of experiencing the symptoms of GERD.
Certain beverages like coffee, tea, and citrus juice can aggravate acid reflux. It is better to eliminate these items from your diet and focus on healthy and clean eating.
What Treatment Options Do You Have?
If your symptoms don’t go away with lifestyle modifications, your doctor may prescribe your certain medications that help to reduce the acidity and other symptoms of GERD.
- Antacids: provide quick relief by neutralizing the stomach acid.
- Proton Pump Inhibitor: They are better than antacids and H-2 receptor blockers because it allows time to heal the esophageal tissue.
- H-2 Receptor Blocker: these frugs reduce acid production and provide longer relief than antacids, however, they do not act as quickly as antacids.
If the symptoms still don’t get better with medications, surgery may be the last resort.
Are There Any Home Remedies To Cater To GERD?
Some people prefer home remedies over medications since they have fewer side effects. Certain home remedies include:
- Chewing gum: produces saliva, which is an acid buffer, and neutralizes the acid in the stomach.
- Drinking milk: milk is a good pick to neutralize the acids. However, it has fat content in it which may aggravate the symptoms of heartburn so it is advisable to use it in a small quantity.
- Quit smoking.
- Sleeping on the left side: some studies show that sleeping on the left side can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Eat smaller meals: eating in small amounts not only makes the stomach light but also reduces the lethargicness one may feel because of overeating.
- Limit foods that are high in fats.
Heartburn is a common gastrointestinal condition. It can have a severe impact on one’s mental and physical health. However, the good news is that it can be handled with appropriate care. It is important to understand that home remedies alone can not curb acid reflux, you have to take the prescribed medication along with the remedies to ensure better results. Never ignore your symptoms because the longer the symptoms linger, the more are the chances of damaging the esophagus.
There are multiple pharmaceuticals working with Clinical Research Organization is conducting paid GERD Clinical Trials in Michigan to help you and countless others find a solution to this complex condition.