A large number of people all over the world suffer from gastrointestinal or digestive diseases. The worst thing is that the number is increasing day by day. The most common digestive disorder is heartburn. In scientific terms, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is a chronic illness with more than 3 million cases per year, alone in the USA.
Let us first understand the terms in brief.
What are Acid Reflux and GERD?
Acid Reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, is the phenomenon of moving the food contents in your stomach up in your esophagus. When the stomach acid or bile enters the esophagus, it hurts its inner lining and irritates the chest. The esophagus is a tube-like structure that connects your throat to your stomach. It is also called the food pipe. During the process of acid reflux, you might feel like your chest is burning (heartburn) and bloated with the food. It can occasionally occur if you overeat or drink coffee or alcohol.
But if you experience a burning sensation in your chest more often, like more than two times a week, then it’s time to see a doctor. This abnormality in the functioning of the esophagus is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD. If not treated properly, it can lead to some serious health complications.
Most people assume that GERD and Acid Reflux are the same.
What is the Difference Between GERD and Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is an occasional biological phenomenon. But if it starts occurring more often, like more than two times a week, it leads to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) disease. They are not necessarily the same, but they are closely related.
Causes of GERD
When we eat food, it passes through the food pipe (esophagus). The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes and opens up when we swallow. Then, it closes again to stop the backward flow of food from the stomach.
Acid Reflux occurs when LES doesn’t close properly, the digestive juices and food contents move back in the esophagus. If the sphincter becomes weak or relaxes abnormally, the stomach acid can cause heartburn. It can also lead to GERD if not treated properly.
Risk factors of GERD
Certain health conditions can increase the risk of developing GERD like:
Connective tissue disorders
Some bad lifestyle habits can also cause GERD :
Drinking too much soda, coffee, or alcohol.
Eating unhealthy food like fried and spicy ones.
The habit of lying down quickly or going to sleep after a meal.
Consuming non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Overeating or eating late at night.
Symptoms of GERD
Some common symptoms of GERD include:
Irritation and burning feeling in your chest that radiates towards your neck. It is called heartburn. It usually occurs after eating, especially during the night. Lying down at that time can worsen the problem.
Acid Reflux can also cause a sour or bitter taste at the back of your mouth.
GERD can also cause difficulty in swallowing. Sometimes it can also lead to respiratory problems such as asthma or chronic cough.
It can lead to regurgitation of food or sour liquid.
Sometimes you can sense a lump in your throat.
Nighttime acid reflux can cause:
Difficulty in sleeping.
Reach out to a doctor immediately if you experience chest pain, shortness of breathing, or jaw or arm pain. It can be an alarming sign of a heart attack also.
GERD in Babies
It is quite normal for an infant to vomit food or milk. But if they do so more frequently, it may be a sign of GERD. Approximately 10 per cent of one-year-old babies suffer from GERD.
So, make sure to visit a doctor immediately in that case.
Serious complications of GERD
Most people don’t experience any severe health issues due to GERD. But, in some cases, it can lead to serious health complications like:
Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis).
Tightening of the esophagus.
Permanent changes in the lining of your esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus).
Respiratory problems like asthma, chronic cough, and shortness of breathing.
Dental issues like gum diseases and enamel erosion.
Treatment of GERD
Now that you understand what acid reflux and GERD are, you must know that its treatment lies in good lifestyle habits and a balanced diet.
You should maintain a routine, lose extra weight, wear comfortable clothing around your abdomen, and avoid drinking and smoking. You can also take some antacids as a home remedy to treat GERD.
If you are looking for experts’ advice, you can ask doctors online on the ‘Ask Vaidya online consultation App‘. Almost 90 per cent of health complications can be solved by maintaining a proper lifestyle, eating healthy, and exercising. So, take the help of the ‘Ask Vaidya App’ and get solutions to your every query.