GERD: A long name for a common issue

Posted on November 23, 2018 by kerri
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, is a common condition, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a nuisance to live with. In North America, estimates of prevalence of GERD are between 18 and 28%—prevalence estimates are lowest in East Asia, ranging from 3 to 8%. [1] Simply put, having GERD is a chronic disease, in which acid reflux occurs very frequently—at least once a week. [2]
Diagnosing GERD
To diagnose GERD, your doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history and symptoms. They may also do tests, such as imaging studies to watch how stomach acid travels aided by barium which will show up on scans, measuring stomach acid while a thin tube is placed through the nose and into the esophagus  while in the doctors office, and a 24 hour pH study that measures how much reflux occurs over a 24 hour period, by placing a probe through the nose and into the esophagus and having a patient go about their daily activities. [1.1]
Treating GERD
Fortunately, there are many options for treating GERD once it is diagnosed by a doctor. Over the counter remedies may be recommended, but various prescription treatments also exist. Over the counter remedies may not be as strong or work as well as those available by prescription. [3] These medications do various things, from neutralizing stomach acid (antacids), reduce acid production, and those that block acid production and heal the esophagus from damage done by excess acid. [3] In some cases, surgery may also help to ease GERD symptoms, if medication is unsuccessful. [3]
Other lifestyle changes can help treat GERD, too. Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, eating slowly and chewing food well, and modifying diet to avoid trigger foods like alcohol, fatty or fried foods, tomato sauces, chocolate, mint, caffeine, garlic, and onion [3]—and any other foods that you’ve identified to trigger your reflux—can provide relief. Elevating the head of your bed can help if you experience nighttime reflux frequently, and not laying down within 3 hours of a meal can help prevent reflux. [3]
And, what you wear can ease symptoms, too—no, you’re not the only one surprised! Clothing that is too tight around your belly can place extra pressure on the lower sphincter in your stomach, and cause worsening of reflux symptoms. [3]
When GERD makes other conditions worse
Frequently, GERD can coexist with other health conditions. These conditions are not always worsened by GERD, and GERD may not be worsened by the conditions, but it can happen in some cases. The top 10 conditions most likely to coexist with GERD are hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, constipation, and allergic rhinitis. [4] There is much research done on the impacts of GERD on asthma, in which acid may enter and irritate the lungs. For those with GERD and asthma it is important to keep both under control to manage symptoms. [5] If you have any of these chronic medical conditions, wearing a medical ID bracelet can be an important part of your care plan.
If you think you have GERD, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. Even if you are taking over the counter remedies there may be better options available to ease your symptoms, and allow you to eat a diet that includes foods you like, even if they are modified to improve your symptoms and quality of life.

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