What to Do if You Have GERD

What to Do if You Have GERD

Pamela Bandelaria |Apr 1, 2021

How to Treat GERD

You may have heard of it, but what is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? Is it serious or something to be worried about? This article will explain GERD’s causes, symptoms, and both medical and non-medical treatment options. So, let’s find out how to treat GERD.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition wherein acid from the stomach goes back up through the esophagus (the passageway that connects the mouth and stomach). This can cause pain and discomfort in the chest and throat area. GERD is commonly called heartburn or acid reflux. This is because the type of discomfort is characterized as a burning sensation in the chest area.

What Causes GERD?

There are many ways by which GERD can occur. As previously mentioned, GERD occurs because of the reflux of acid. Normally, this is prevented by the contraction of a ring of muscle at the end of the esophagus. When this weakens, the stomach’s acid goes back up the digestive tract, irritating the lining of the esophagus.

This muscle can weaken through a variety of causes. Smoking can weaken it, and some medications can trigger acid reflux as well. Medications such as muscle relaxers, iron supplements, pain relievers, potassium supplements, and medications to control blood pressure are among those that can worsen or trigger acid reflux.

Acid reflux can also occur because of increased pressure in the abdomen, which can push stomach contents up the esophagus.

Who Can Have GERD?

Anybody can have GERD, but some people are predisposed to have it more than others.

Usually, this condition occurs in the older age group. People who have a family history of GERD or heartburn are at increased risk of having the same disorder, suggesting a genetic link to the illness.

Pregnancy and obesity are also conditions wherein GERD would most likely occur due to the increased pressure in the abdomen. Those with other illnesses such as a hernia can also have a greater chance of having GERD. Activities such as smoking can impair the muscle and destroy mucus membranes, increasing the risk of developing GERD.

What Are the Symptoms of GERD?

Symptoms that are suggestive of GERD include:

  • Chest pain, usually a burning sensation that is worse at night
  • Chest discomfort (sensation of movement of fluid up and down the chest)
  • A sensation of a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Bitter or sour taste in the mouth or regurgitation of good
  • Chronic cough
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sore throat or hoarseness of voice

Chest pain is common and worse at night because the reflux is more significant when lying down. Sometimes chest pain is a cause of worry or anxiety because it may mimic heart problems and can be confused with a heart attack.

What Tests Are Done to Diagnose GERD?

Although it can be diagnosed from patient history and a physical exam, the following tests can also diagnose GERD.

Endoscopy

A thin tube with a tiny camera is inserted into the throat and esophagus. This checks any erosions or structural problems in the gastrointestinal tract.

Esophageal Manometry

A pressure-sensitive tube is passed through the nose to the stomach. This measures the pressure of muscle contractions and checks the muscle function of the gastrointestinal tract.

GERD can also be diagnosed through 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring to measure the acidity that goes through the esophagus within 24 hours. These tests are usually done if GERD does not resolve after medical or non-medical remedies.

What Can Happen if I Have GERD?

GERD can be a cause of discomfort for some, especially if it occurs frequently. If severe, it can interfere with daily activities and affect the quality of life. GERD also has some serious complications that must be noted.

It can cause erosion or narrowing of the esophageal wall. Repeated exposure of the esophagus to acid can cause damage and changes in the cellular composition of the esophageal lining. This is a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus should be monitored because patients with this condition may develop esophageal cancer. This is why GERD must be treated and controlled as soon as symptoms are noticed.

How Do I Treat GERD?

So, want to know how to treat GERD? Treatment options for GERD may be medical or non-medical. Non-medical treatment options include at-home remedies that are simple and easily accessible to alleviate symptoms of GERD. Non-medical options include:

  • Lifestyle changes, including weight loss if you are overweight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding foods that can trigger acid reflux, such as carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea, fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, and alcohol
  • Discontinuing or changing any medications that can cause acid reflux

Simple techniques after eating or before bedtime also can significantly help in controlling GERD. These include not immediately lying down after a meal and sleeping with your upper body elevated (you can use a foam wedge support to help).

If the symptoms persist or do not improve, you will need to seek medical treatment options. The most common treatment options belong to a class called proton pump inhibitors. This group of drugs controls acid production in the stomach. Antacids are another group of drugs that can help in the reduction of acid exposure. A physician should prescribe these medications as they may have side effects. Severe and persistent cases of GERD can require surgical intervention.

GERD is a common illness and can easily be diagnosed and treated. There are many options as well for patients who have this condition. It is best to consult a doctor if symptoms of GERD occur frequently and do not improve with non-medical treatment. A doctor’s evaluation can help determine whether medical treatment is needed.

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