A ring of muscle called the gastroesophageal sphincter acts as a valve that prevents food that has entered into the stomach from going back into the esophagus. If this valve fails, there will be a regurgitation of the stomach contents containing acid into the esophagus which causes burning chest pain.
Heartburn can be experienced by most people occasionally. If you feel that burning sensation in your chest more than twice a week, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
SEE YOUR DOCTOR FOR PROPER EVALUATION AND MANAGEMENT.
A 2014 systematic review estimates that 15.1-30% of the U.S. population has GERD.
According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), there were 995,402 hospitalizations for GERD in 1998. In 2005, there were 3.14 million; an increase of 216%!!!
In both years, approximately 62% of all GERD hospital discharges involved women.
The same study showed that the number of adults hospitalized for GERD decreased by 2.4% between 1998 and 2005. During the same period, the rate increased by 42% for babies. It increased by 84% for children aged 2 to 17.
In 2010, 4.7 million hospitalizations and 1,653 deaths were a result of GERD, as reported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- A burning sensation in your chest.
- Pain in your chest when you bend over or lay down.
- A burning feeling in your throat.
- A hot, sour, acidic or salty taste in the back of your throat.
- Difficulty swallowing.
SOME TRIGGERS OF GERD.
Some factors can weaken your esophageal sphincter, they include:
- Being overweight/ obesed
- Eating late
- Hiatal hernia (part of the stomach protrudes into the chest wall)
Certain foods and beverages can worsen the symptoms of GERD. They include:
- Fried or fatty foods
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks
- Spicy foods.
- Carbonated beverages
- Alcoholic drinks mostly red wine
WAYS TO PREVENT ACID REFLUX
1. Avoid Overeating
In people with GERD, the valve is dysfunctional or damaged.
2. Avoid drinking too much coffee:
Research has shown that the magnitude and the duration of the effect of acid reflux were greater after coffee intake. Some evidence points towards caffeine as a possible culprit. These data support the clinical belief that coffee may cause or aggravate heartburn by decreasing lower esophageal sphincter pressure. Caffeine weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. It causes increased duration of reflux episodes between meals.
Although several studies suggest that coffee may worsen acid reflux, the results are not entirely conclusive. Based on this research, if you notice that coffee consumption increases or worsens your symptoms, try and limit your intake.
3. Don’t lie down shortly after a meal:
Nutritionists suggests that you wait about three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This will allow food to digest and the contents of your stomach will move into your small intestine. This may prevent problems like heartburn at night and even insomnia.
4. Avoid foods that trigger reflux
Some common triggers include:
- Fatty or fried foods
- Tomato sauce, garlic, onion, black pepper.
- Citrus fruits and products, such as lemons, oranges and orange juice
- Spicy food.
- Mint (Peppermint and spearmint)
Some foods that could help relieve heartburn include:
- Ginger: Although there are very few evidence to prove the effect of ginger on heart burn, it may help reduce reflux.
- Bananas and melons: These fruits are low in acid and they help to reduce reflux
- Green veggies: such as green beans, broccoli, spinach are low in fat, acid, and sugar.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is packed with fiber, and they help in bowel movement which is linked to a lower risk of acid reflux.
- Grains and potatoes
- Low carb diet
The diaphragm is a muscle located above your stomach. It helps to strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter. Also, it prevents the reflux of food and acidic content into the esophagus. Excess weight put pressure on your abdomen, pushes up your stomach and causes acid to reflux into your esophagus
Research shows Hiatus hernia is the main reason obese people and pregnant women are at an increased risk of reflux and heartburn. Another research shows that maintaining a normal BMI/ weight-loss may relieve the symptoms of GERD and its potential complications.
6. Avoid drinks that trigger reflux:
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks, including tea and soda
- Carbonated Beverages: Carbonated drinks increase the frequency of belching, this may cause acid reflux. If they worsen your symptoms, try drinking less or avoiding them altogether.
7. Elevate the Head of Your Bed
Reflux may occur during the night. Research has shown that GERD can lead to diffculty sleeping in patient with reflux and also in patients with sleep apnea. It was also concluded that a significant minority of subjects with sleep disturbances have abnormal acid exposures.
Another research showed that elevating the head end of the bed provides relief to the patient, thereby decreasing the frequency of reflux.
One study showed that patients who raised the head of their bed had significantly fewer reflux episodes and symptoms, compared to those who slept without any elevatiion. Therefore, elevating the head of your bed may reduce your reflux symptoms at night.
8. Chew Gum
Some studies have shown that chewing gum could increase the swallowing frequency and improve clearance of reflux within the esophagus. Chewing can increase your saliva production thereby making you to swallow more. Research has also shown that chewing bicarbonate gum may provide more relief. Although this process can help clear the acid, it does not reduce the reflux itself.
Some over-the-counter medications can be used to relieve heartburn. They include:
- Antacids: It helps neutralize stomach acid. Antacids may provide quick and immediate relief. But they cannot heal the esophagus incase of a damage from stomach acid.
- Histamine-2-receptor antagonists: These drugs help decrease stomach acid secretion. It heals the erosion of the esophagus. They provide longer relief. Famotidine (Pepcid as a prescription, Pepcid-AC as an OTC medication), Cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet-HB), etc.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These class of drugs block the three major pathways for acid production in the stomach. They generally decrease acid production, gives the esophagus time to heal and also prevent any further damages done to the stomach and esophagus. Some examples include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR) and omeprazole (Nexium 24HR).
Reflux prevention in babies
- Allow your baby to sleep on his/ her back.
- Feed your baby in an upright position: Try to keep your baby upright for up to for about 30 minutes after feeding.
- Avoid clothing and tight diapers.
- Try feeding your baby in less quantity but more frequently.
- Take time to burp (a sound that is made when air is released from the stomach through the mouth; more like belching) your baby.
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