Acid Reflux: What’s The Word on GERD?

Some things just make our stomach turn- whether it’s watching an episode of “Hoarders”, doing an INSANITY workout, or catching up with LiLo’s latest plastic surgery debacle, acid reflux can be a real disaster.

What causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)? There are several factors that play into women experiencing symptoms of acid reflux. Amongst Americans, more than twenty five percent of all adults suffer from GERD and greater than ten percent have symptoms every day.

The environment in the stomach is extremely acidic compared to the rest of the body. When this acidic content comes up from the stomach to the lower portion of the esophagus, you may begin to feel the burning and pain of acid reflux. At the junction between the esophagus and the stomach there is a small sphincter (this acts similar to a door) that stays closed to keep acid out of the esophagus. If this “door” malfunctions, or is hit by a significant amount of pressure from the stomach, a person experiences acid reflux. Occasionally, this sphincter may relax at the wrong time and also cause symptoms of GERD. 

Like your good friend Kim Kardashian in her blonde wig, GERD symptoms may be unrecognizable. Symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, persistent cough, or hoarse voice can all be associated with acid reflux. If you are experiencing chest pain, however, don’t tell yourself it’s heartburn, you should have a cardiac evaluation by a physician immediately.

In some cases, GERD is a sign of a more serious problem. If you are experiencing trouble swallowing, loss of appetite, weight loss, or pain in your stomach or throat something more complex may be going on. Gastric ulcers, esophageal and gastric cancers, and anatomical problems with your esophagus may present as severe GERD. Your doctor can help evaluate your situation with a careful history and exam. If any of these are suspected and you have tried medications or lifestyle changes (we will talk about this below), your physician may recommend you see a Gastroenterologist for further studies or evaluation. This is a specialist who deals specifically with medical problems related to the stomach, intestine and digestive system.

What are some ways to reduce GERD? Lifestyle changes are always the first and best place to start. It turns out not only is binge drinking bad for your heart, but excessive amounts of alcohol can worsen acid reflux symptoms. High intake of fat is also associated with increase in GERD symptoms. Additionally, if you smoke, your acid reflux can be much more severe- this alone is a great reason to quit smoking. Increased intake of citrus fruits, juice, chocolate, and spices are also known to exacerbate acid reflux. Also keep in mind that pregnancy can significantly increase acid reflux, so try to sit upright after meals and consider smaller meals and snacks throughout the day if you are pregnant.

Hopefully all this info hasn’t left a sour taste in your mouth! If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD speak to your physician. He or she may give you a trial of a medication to improve your symptoms and review your diet and lifestyle to help you make changes.

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