by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus.
Stomach acid that touches the lining of your esophagus can cause heartburn.
Doctors also refer to GER as acid indigestion, acid reflux, acid regurgitation, heartburn, and reflux.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious and long-lasting form of GER.
GER that occurs more than twice a week for a few weeks could be GERD. GERD can lead to more serious health problems over time. A review study published in the journal, Gut, reports the following range of GERD prevalence estimates in global populations: North America—18-28 percent • Europe—9-26 percent • East Asia—3-8 percent • the Middle East—9-33 percent • Australia—12 percent • South America—23 percent.
Who Is More Likely to Have GERD?
Anyone can develop GERD; however, you are more likely to have GERD if you are overweight or obese, a pregnant woman, taking certain medicines, a smoker, or regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
What are the Complications of GERD?
Without treatment, GERD can sometimes cause serious complications over time, such as esophagitis, an inflammation in the esophagus. Adults who have chronic esophagitis over many years are more likely to develop precancerous changes in the esophagus. Another possible problem is an esophageal stricture, which happens when your esophagus becomes too narrow. Esophageal strictures can lead to problems with swallowing. You may also develop respiratory problems. With GERD, you might breathe stomach acid into your lungs. The stomach acid can then irritate your throat and lungs, causing respiratory problems, such as asthma, chest congestion, or extra fluid in your lungs, a dry, long-lasting cough or a sore throat, hoarseness, laryngitis, pneumonia, and wheezing. GERD can sometimes cause Barrett’s esophagus. A small number of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop a rare yet often deadly type of cancer of the esophagus.
What are the Symptoms of GER and GERD?
If you have gastroesophageal reflux (GER), you may taste food or stomach acid in the back of your mouth.
The most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is regular heartburn, a painful, burning feeling in the middle of your chest, behind your breastbone, and in the middle of your abdomen. Not all adults with GERD have heartburn. Other common GERD symptoms include bad breath, nausea, pain in your chest or the upper part of your abdomen, problems swallowing or painful swallowing, respiratory problems, vomiting, and the wearing away of your teeth.
What Causes GER and GERD?
GER and GERD happen when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it should not, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes due to increased pressure on your abdomen from being overweight, obese, or pregnant. Certain medicines, including those that doctors use to treat asthma and high blood pressure, antihistamines, painkillers, sedatives, and antidepressants can also cause GERD, as can smoking, inhaling secondhand smoke, and a hiatal hernia.
How Do Doctors Diagnose GER?
In most cases, your doctor diagnoses gastroesophageal reflux (GER) by reviewing your symptoms and medical history. If your symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes, you may need testing.
If your GER symptoms do not improve, if they come back frequently, or if you have trouble swallowing, your doctor may recommend testing you for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). To confirm a diagnosis of GERD, or check for complications, your doctor might recommend an endoscopy. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera (endoscope) down your throat to examine the inside of your esophagus and stomach. An ambulatory acid (pH) probe test may be ordered. A monitor is placed in your esophagus to identify when, and for how long, stomach acid regurgitates there. An esophageal manometry test measures the rhythmic muscle contractions in your esophagus when you swallow. Or your practitioner may order an X-ray of your upper digestive system taken after you drink a chalky liquid that coats and fills the inside lining of your digestive tract.
How Do You Control GER and GERD?
You may be able to control gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by not eating or drinking items that may cause GER, such as greasy or spicy foods and alcoholic drinks, not overeating, not eating two to three hours before bedtime, losing weight if you’re overweight or obese, quitting smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke.
Making lifestyle changes can reduce your GER and GERD symptoms. You should lose weight if needed. Wear loose-fitting clothing around your abdomen because tight clothing can squeeze your stomach area and push acid up into your esophagus. Stay upright for three hours after meals, avoid reclining and slouching when sitting, and sleep on a slight angle by raising the head of your bed six to eight inches. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
Eating, Diet, and Nutrition
You can prevent or relieve your symptoms from gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by changing your diet. You may need to avoid certain foods and drinks that make your symptoms worse. You may need to decrease fatty foods; eat small, frequent meals instead of three large meals; and avoid eating or drinking items that may make GER or GERD worse, like chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy or spicy foods, tomatoes and tomato products, and alcoholic drinks.
Instead, eat healthy and balanced amounts of different types of healthy foods to avoid symptoms of GERD. Good choices are berries; melons; bananas; and vegetables such as spinach, kale, bok choy, green beans, and cucumbers. Lean proteins like eggs, chicken, and turkey are good choices, as are healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. Fatty fish, such as salmon and trout, are good choices, as are oats, ginger, aloe vera, and avocados.
If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing ® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health.
The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.