When you have GERD, it means that your stomach acid flows back to your mouth via the esophagus. As a result, you can have all kinds of reactions such as feeling food stuck in your throat, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and other challenges.
Meaning of GERD
Before we can get any further, you need to understand what is GERD. GERD is the short form for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a disorder that causes food to flow back to your mouth through the esophagus (tube between the stomach and mouth).
It happens because the esophagus fails to close properly at its tip after dropping food into the stomach. The acid that refluxes into the esophagus flows upwards via your throat to your mouth to deliver a sour taste.
Having this kind of experience may be natural sometimes. However, it becomes a problem when it occurs more often. GERD can be so severe that it makes it difficult to go about your day. If you do not take reflux medication and antacids, you may end up struggling with severe heartburn. Speak to a medical professional for assistance in treating your GERD.
Symptoms to look out for
GERD is often pinpointed by symptoms such as acid regurgitation and heartburn. Please note that you can suffer from GERD without necessarily experiencing heartburn. In this case, you could have symptoms like hoarseness, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. You may also get a sense of choking or constricted throat and poor breath as a symptom of GERD.
Heartburn is a painful burning sensation that you feel at the center of your chest which occurs due to stomach acid irritation.
The burning will typically occur after eating. However, it can also happen at any time. Sleeping at certain angles in bed or reclining can worsen the condition to the extent you fail to get a good night’s sleep.
You will often be able to treat heartburn using over-the-counter medication. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications like Omeprazole when the heartburn becomes unbearable.
Action points when you suspect you have GERD
Immediately call your doctor when the GERD makes it difficult to go about your daily life. Even though GERD is not fatal, it may lead to serious complications associated with chronic inflammation of the esophagus. You can relieve the symptoms by taking stronger acid reflux medicine or possibly undergoing surgery.
Prevalence of GERD
GERD occurs frequently, with the illness and its symptoms being known to happen in about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Furthermore, the condition is not limited to any given age. However, you become more susceptible as you grow older.
Other conditions that increase risk factors are:
- Overweight or obese
- Certain medications
Why does GERD happen?
Some of the causes of GERD include:
- Applying too much pressure on the abdomen. The additional pressure explains why some pregnant women have more frequent heartburns, occurring almost daily
- A hernia in the stomach is called a hiatal hernia. In this case, you have the upper part of the stomach protruding into the diaphragm to block regular meal uptake
- Eating habits and some foods like fried dishes, spicy meals, and dairy products
- anti-depressants, sedatives, and painkillers
Symptoms of GERD
Some of the symptoms that may indicate you have GERD include:
- Pain in the chest
- Food coming back to the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling that food is stuck in the throat
Infants and children can also have GERD. The symptoms to look out for are:
- Problematic bad breath
- Regularly vomiting
- Hoarseness in throat
- Acidic flavor, mainly when lying down
- Refusal to eat
- Excessive crying during mealtime
- Sleep difficulty after eating
- A choking sensation that keeps waking them
Difference between heartburn and heart attack
Heartburn will often trigger chest pain that you may confuse for a heart attack. However, the two are different. Heartburn will mainly create discomfort in the chest. On the other hand, a heart attack will not manifest the symptoms of a heartburn sensation.
The burning sensation of heartburn will start in the chest and may spread to the throat and neck.
A heart attack is manifested by symptoms like discomfort in the neck, arms, and jaw. Other symptoms include nausea, perspiration, dizziness, shortness of breath, worry, and excessive weariness.
Can GERD cause asthma?
The link between GERD and asthma remains unclear for medical professionals. That’s because the condition is known to occur in 75% of asthmatic patients. Sometimes taking asthma medications can also make GERD worsen.
Generally, some of the situations under which GERD may be considered to cause asthma are:
- Adult occurrence of asthma is diagnosed
- Asthma therapies fail to improve asthma symptoms
- Asthma symptoms become worse after sleeping, eating, or lying down
Is GERD life-threatening?
GERD is not life-threatening on its own. However, the resultant effects can lead to serious health complications.
- Irritation and inflammation of the esophagus by stomach acid may cause chest pain, heartburn, bleeding, ulcers, and difficulty breathing
- Esophageal cancer may occur as a result of GERD due to the stomach acid protruding back upwards
- Barret’s esophagus is known to happen in about ten percent of those who suffer from GERD for a long time
- The injuries occurring on the esophagus walls leave it scarred and narrowed. You may find it difficult to eat and drink, leading to other complications
The seriousness of these conditions makes it necessary to take acid reflux tablets as prescribed by your doctor. And in severe situations, you may have to undergo surgery to treat GERD.
What foods to avoid when you have GERD
Taking certain foods when you have GERD can aggravate the condition. The foods that you should avoid include:
- Onions and garlic
- Fried foods
- Spicy or hot foods
- Tomato sauces
- Citrus fruits
- Dairy products
Pay attention to what you eat, listing the meals that cause you problems and avoiding them. For better assistance, speak to your medical professional.