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Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD

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Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD

The Causes, Symptoms And Cures Of Acid Reflux And Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD

What is acid reflux?

The burning sensation in your upper abdomen, chest and throat that was once known as acid indigestion is now referred to as acid reflux. Patients who suffer from the occasional bout of acid reflux stand a better chance of naturally curing their symptoms, whereas those who suffer from regular symptoms (more than twice a week) could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and may need to begin medication or undergo surgery in hope of a cure.

gerd Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD

An estimated 60 million Americans experience acid reflux at least once a month. Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can produce a variety of symptoms.

Causes of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux happens when stomach acid slowly leaks through a Lower Esophageal Sphincter valve (LES) that is not working properly. When the potent acid flows back up past the esophageal sphinctereaches and reaches the throat, it causes a burning sensation because, unlike the stomach, there is no protective lining.

acid reflux Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD

By understanding how to neutralize the hydrochloric acid (HCI) that rises from the stomach, and by strengthening the LES valve, can you naturally treat and cure your acid reflux symptoms. Severe symptoms may call for a course of medication, but either way, most cases of acid reflux and GERD can be cured, regardless of severity.

One common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatal hernia, contrary to popular beliefs, this can occur in people of any age. A hiatal hernia happens when the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm. When it works correctly, the diaphragm normally helps keep acid from rising into your esophagus. But if you have a hiatal hernia, it is easier for acid to move up into your esophagus.

Smoking may contribute to acid reflux disease by doing any of the following: damaging mucus membranes; impairing muscle reflexes in the throat; increasing acid secretion; reducing LES muscle function; reducing salivation, which neutralizes the effect of acid.

Pregnancy can also induce acid reflux. This is due to increasing levels of hormones combined with pressure from the growing fetus.

Acid reflux has different triggers, including certain foods; taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and blood pressure medications, obesity, or even stress.

10 type of foods which induce acid reflux symptoms include:

  • Tangy citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic and onion
  • Spice foods containing pepper or chili
  • Peppermint
  • High fat foods like cheese, nuts avocado, rib eye steaks
  • Alcohol
  • Drinks containing caffeine like coffee, tea, ice tea, soda pop
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Chocolate

Symptoms

The symptoms of acid reflux are wide and varied, they can include;

  • Painful heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Harsh chest pains
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Dental erosion
  • Bad breath and/or bad taste in the mouth
  • Burping
  • Hoarse speaking
  • Sore throat
  • Asthma-like symptoms

Diagnosis

It is important for patients to pay attention to the frequency and severity of their symptoms. GERD can lead to a number of complications if left untreated. Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Yale University explains.

“GERD can cause a narrowing of the esophagus that leads to trouble swallowing,
“And in some patients, it causes a change in the lining of the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus – a condition that can lead to cancer.”

If symptoms occur without trouble or complications, it should be easy for your doctor to diagnose your case. If you experience symptoms more than twice a week, your doctor could diagnose you with gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Barium swallow radiograph

In order to rule out any structural problems in your esophagus, your doctor may decide to use a special X-ray procedure known as a barium swallow radiograph. The painless test involves swallowing a solution of barium; this enables the doctor to take a clear X-ray of your esophagus.

Whilst being effective, a barium swallow radiograph is not a certain way to diagnose GERD. Only one out of three patients with GERD has esophageal changes that are visible on X-rays.
Endoscopy or EGD

The doctor may use an instrument known as endoscope. An endoscope is a type of probe comprising of a small tube and camera, the probe is inserted down the esophagus and allows the doctor to see the lining of the stomach.

Before inserting the tube, your gastroenterologist may administer a mild sedative to help you relax. The doctor may also spray your throat with an analgesic spray to make the procedure more comfortable.

The procedure lasts around 20 minutes, is not painful and will not interfere with your ability to breathe. While this test may detect some complications of GERD, including Barrett’s esophagus, only about half the people with acid reflux disease have visible changes to the lining of their esophagus.

Biopsy

Depending on the results of your EGD, you may also be required to undergo a biopsy. If this is the case, your doctor will insert a will pass a tiny surgical instrument through the endoscope to remove a small piece of the lining in the esophagus. The tissue sample will then be sent to a pathology lab for analysis.

Esophageal manometry

To test your esophageal function, your doctor may perform an esophageal manometry. After applying a numbing agent to your nose, the doctor will pass a narrow flexible tube through the nose into the esophagus and stomach.

You will then be asked to lay on your left, when you do, sensors on the tube will measure the
pressure being exerted at various locations inside your esophagus and stomach.

You may also be asked to take a few sips of water to help the device record muscle contractions in you esophagus.

The test usually lasts around 20-30 minutes.

Esophageal impedance monitoring

To obtain a more detailed picture of how your esophagus functions, your doctor may recommend esophageal impedance monitoring, if so, this will be done in conjunction with a menometry.

This test uses a manometry tube with electrodes placed at various points along its length. It measures the rate at which liquids and gases pass through your esophagus.

The results are then compared with your manometry findings; this allows your doctor to further assess how effectively your esophageal contractions are moving substances through your esophagus into your stomach.

PH monitoring

This is a test that uses a pH monitor to record the acidity in your esophagus over a 24-hour period.
This test involves passing a small tube with pH sensors through the esophagus. The tube is connected to a small recording device and is left in place, with the portion exiting from nose affixed to the side of your face, for 24-hours.

During the course of the test you will record when you are eating of drinking. You will also push specific buttons on the recording device to indicate when you are experiencing acid reflux symptoms.

There is a newer wireless version of this test available. This involves attaching a small sensor to your lower esophagus using suction. The small probe is able to communicate wirelessly with a recording device outside your body for 48 hours. The probe ultimately falls off and passes through the remainder of the digestive tract.

Remedies

There are several ways to reduce and even cure symptoms of acid reflux without surgery or medication; some remedies are as simple as an apple a day.

According to Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Yale University,

“It basically comes down to how frequently they’re having symptoms and how much the symptoms are affecting their life,
“Avoiding caffeine, eliminating fatty or acidic foods, losing excess weight and quitting smoking are all things patients can do to control their acid reflux.”

If adjusting your diet does not calm your symptoms doctors often suggest taking oral suspension medicines.

Medications like Pepto Bismol and Carafate, are sometimes used to treat heartburn and indigestion as well as nausea, diarrhea and ulcers in the throat, stomach and intestines.

“Carafate is a liquid suspension that essentially coats the inside of the esophagus. It’s short-lived in its effectiveness because once the coating wears off it’s not going to do much,” Sheth said. “We really only prescribe it for people who have symptoms less than a couple times a week or month.”

Phazyme, Gas-X and Beano are medications that can aid in relieving pressure, bloating, and gas in the digestive tract. These medications usually come in tablet form and work by breaking up gas bubbles, making it easier to eliminate.

H-2-receptor blockers such as Pepcid AC and Zantac are now sold over-the-counter and work by “by shutting off the production of acid in the stomach. They are effective for mild reflux; they’re relatively inexpensive and can be used casually by people who only have symptoms a couple times a month.”

For patients with severe symptoms that occur regularly, your doctor may suggest taking proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium. These medications block acid production and aid in healing damaged esophageal tissue.

Most PPIs are usually taken under doctors the care of a doctor however, certain PPIs like Prilosec, are now available over-the-counter.

“The standard of care for treating GERD and related digestive diseases has become proton pump inhibitors. And because they are so safe, these are the most common medicines,” Sheth said.

If medications don’t completely resolve your symptoms of acid reflux disease, your doctor could recommend surgery. A procedure called fundoplication can help prevent further acid reflux by creating an artificial valve using the top of your stomach.

The procedure involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the LES to strengthen it, prevent acid reflux, and repair a hiatal hernia. Surgeons perform this procedure through either an open incision in the abdomen or chest or with a lighted tube inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen. This procedure is done only as a last resort for treatment of acid reflux disease.

Complications

Complications as a result of an acid reflux test or fundoplication are rare. As with any surgical procedure there is a risk of infection or allergy to the medication.

There are also slight but very real dangers involved with taking medications. Whilst prescription and over-the-counter drugs can reduce symptoms and help cure GERD, they can also be the cause of other reactions and even death.

Long term use can cause the body to produce an extra amount of the hormone called gastrin. Gastrin is the substance that tells your stomach to make more acid. There are gastrin receptors on the esophageal, pancreatic, and gastric cancer cells, and over-production of gastrin can cause these cancer cells to grow, increasing the risk of developing cancer in these organs.

It is vital that you follow the prescription guidelines outlined by your doctor and do not self medicate.

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