Gastroesophageal reflux is the medical term for the movement of stomach contents up into the esophagus. It is also called “acid reflux” because of the stomach acid that goes with the content. Experiencing this is very common. When you experience gastroesophageal reflux, you feel a burning sensation just below the breast bone. It feels like an ordinary heartburn. It usually occurs after eating or in the evening. Having this condition is considered normal. However, when it happens frequently and complications start to develop, it becomes a matter of concern. This condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease or simply, GERD.
Aside from heartburn, other symptoms of this condition include hoarseness, sore throat, breathing difficulties and a sour taste in the throat.
Many theories are being considered as the underlying cause for this condition. Many of these point to the function of the valve-like tissue located between the stomach and the esophagus. This tissue is supposed to prevent the contents of the stomach from going back into the esophagus. However, people with GERD generally have an unusual function of this valve. If you have GERD, this valve may open at inappropriate moments, have a pressure below normal or be displaced into the chest. The contents of the stomach, including food, acid, pancreatic digestive juices and bile salts, can cause irritation when they are in contact with the coating or lining of the esophagus.
In addition to a malfunctioning valve, some factors that can aggravate the condition are slow emptying of the stomach, obesity, weak contractions of muscles in the esophagus, smoking, pregnancy, production of certain hormones and some medications, among others.
Acid-suppression drugs and antacids are usually taken by people experiencing heartburn frequently, If these medications work, it means that the heartburn is caused by acid reflux. If these drugs fail, seek the help of a physician and ask for prescription medicines.
Aside from medications, treatment of GERD also involves many other components. One of these is alterations in lifestyle. Weight loss may help a lot in treating this condition. Wearing loose clothing is also advisable. To reduce reflux, you should also avoid eating hours before going to bed to keep the stomach empty. You can also take advantage of gravity by elevating the head part of the bed six to eight inches above the bed’s foot. You should also refrain from eating fatty and spicy foods, drinking coffee and other beverages with caffeine and smoking.
If all else fails, surgery may be the best option. However, in more than 95 percent of patients with GERD, medical therapy and lifestyle changes are sufficient to get rid of the condition.
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