Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It’s a chronic condition where stomach acid and
partially digested food flow back up into the esophagus, causing irritation and symptoms such as
heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain and difficulty swallowing. Here’s some information to help you
understand GERD better:

  • Causes: The primary cause of GERD is a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES
    is a ring of muscle that acts as a valve between the stomach and the esophagus. When it
    doesn’t close properly, stomach acid can reflux into the esophagus. Other factors that
    contribute to GERD include obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, certain medications, and
    certain foods and drinks.
  • Symptoms: The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a burning sensation in the
    chest that typically occurs after eating or at night. Other symptoms may include regurgitation
    of food or sour liquid, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, hoarseness voice, and
    a sensation of a lump or foreign body sensation in the throat.
  • Diagnosis: If you suspect you have GERD, it’s important to consult a Gastroenterologist.
    Diagnosis typically involves a medical history review, discussion of symptoms, and sometimes
    additional tests such as an Upper GI endoscopy, Esophageal pH monitoring and impedance
    testing, or a barium swallow test.
  • Management of GERD:
    Lifestyle Modifications: Emphasize the importance of lifestyle changes to manage GERD.
    Encourage patients to:

    • Maintain a healthy weight: Losing excess weight can reduce pressure on the stomach
      and LES.
    • Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Overeating can increase the risk of reflux.
    • Avoid trigger foods and beverages: Encourage patients to identify and eliminate or
      limit foods that worsen their symptoms.
    • Elevate the head of the bed: Suggest using bed risers or a wedge pillow to raise the
      upper body during sleep.
    • Quit smoking: Smoking weakens the LES and impairs the protective mechanisms of
      the esophagus.
    • Limit alcohol, caffeine, tobacco chewing: Both can relax the LES and increase acid
  • Dietary Recommendations:
    • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean
    • Choose low-fat dairy products.
    • Avoid or limit spicy, fatty, fried, and acidic foods.
    • Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly.
    • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Medications: some of medications used to treat GERD are antacids, H2 blockers, and proton
    pump inhibitors (PPIs). These medications work by reducing the acid production.
  • Complications: If left untreated, GERD can lead to complications such as esophagitis
    (inflammation of the esophagus), esophageal strictures (narrowing of the esophagus),
    Barrett’s esophagus (changes in the lining of the esophagus), and an increased risk of
    developing esophageal cancer.
  • It’s always recommended to consult with a Gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and
    appropriate treatment of GERD.

Dr. Panchalingappa Betageri MD, DM (Gastro)
Assistant Professor, Department of Gastroenterology
KLES Dr Prabhakar Kore Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Belagavi

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