Get a grip on GERD
By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters
The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. The lining of the esophagus can’t handle these caustic substances, so the esophagus becomes inflamed and you feel symptoms of chronic heartburn, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Certain foods, smoking, alcohol, and some medications can make the condition more common. In addition, increased abdominal pressure because of obesity or pregnancy raises the risk for GERD.
What to look for
These are symptoms of GERD:
- Heartburn that feels like sharp or burning chest pain behind the breastbone, which may be worse when you eat, bend over, or lie down
- Tightness in the chest or upper abdomen, especially pain that wakes you in the middle of the night
- Backflow of stomach fluids into the mouth
- A recurring sour or bitter taste
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarseness, especially in the morning
- Coughing, wheezing, or repeatedly needing to clear the throat
If you have several of these symptoms, see your health care provider. Pain that feels like heartburn also can be a symptom of coronary artery disease.
What to do
To prevent the symptoms of GERD:
- Elevate the head of your bed at least 6 inches. If possible, put wooden blocks under the legs at the head of the bed or use a solid foam wedge under the head portion of the mattress.
- Avoid coffee, chocolate, fatty foods, whole milk, peppermint and spearmint, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and carbonated drinks.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Don’t eat for three or four hours before going to bed.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. These habits loosen the esophageal sphincter, making the backup of stomach acid more common.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight. Obesity can make it harder for the esophageal sphincter to stay closed.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes. They increase pressure on the abdomen.
How it's treated
Most people with GERD find relief with appropriate self-care and taking over-the-counter medications, such as Mylanta, Pepcid AC, or Zantac, or prescription medications, such as Nexium. People with severe GERD symptoms or people who have complications such as asthma or pneumonia may need surgery.
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