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What is Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)?

Overview

Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) is a digestive problem that is also acidity or indigestion. It occurs if the acid formed in your stomach comes back up to the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest or in the upper area of the stomach. On the other hand, GERD Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a more serious condition that can lead to several health complications if any medical care isn’t taken promptly.

Heartburn is a burning pain that occurs in your chest, which can be felt behind your breastbone. The pain becomes more acute subsequent to eating, at night, or when resting or bending over. Periodic acid reflux or heartburn is normal and there is no reason to unnecessarily worrying. Many people can deal with the distress of heartburn with changes in lifestyle and over-the-counter drugs. Heartburn that is frequent and often causes trouble in your daily routine can be the symptoms of the aggravated condition and it requires medical attention.

Causes

Heartburn occurs when acid in the stomach backs up into the tube that brings food from your mouth to your esophagus.

Commonly when you swallow, a part of muscles around the base of your stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes, to enable the flow of food and liquids into your stomach. At this point the muscle tightens which causes discomfort and uneasiness.

On the off chance that the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes unusually or debilitated, stomach corrosives can flow back into your esophagus and result in heartburn. This acid backup is worse when you are lying down in your bed or bent over.

Although there are no clear causes of GERD, a weak or injured lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that normally prevents backflow of foods from the stomach is linked to this problem. Some triggers like eating a big meal or consuming acidic beverages overwhelm the (LES) causing the acid to flow back into your esophagus. You are likely to get diagnosed with GERD If you are experiencing heartburn frequently or more than twice a week along with other symptoms. 

Heartburn duration can vary for different individuals. For a few people, it can last for a couple of minutes. In some cases it can keep going for a few hours.

Incidental acid reflux isn’t a cause of concern. However, long term indigestion, known as gastroesophageal reflux infection (GERD) can sometimes lead to serious consequences.

For example:

  • A cough persisting for long
  • Laryngitis
  • Irritation or ulcers of the throat
  • Problems in swallowing
  • Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that can make it more likely to get esophageal malignant growths

Symptoms

The main symptoms of GERD or heartburn are similar to GER and you may also experience other symptoms like:

  • Frequent heartburn and chest pain
  • Trouble in swallowing food
  • Digestive disorders
  • Breathing difficulties similar to Asthma
  • Coughing
  • A sore throat
  • Regurgitation of foods

Diagnosis

To understand whether you only have heartburn your doctor may recommend:

  • X-ray: To see the condition of your stomach and esophagus
  • Endoscopy treatment: To check out the presence of any irregularities in your esophagus. He may also take a tissue sample for analyzing.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests: This test may be done to identify how long and when the stomach acid backs up to your esophagus. Sometimes an acid monitor is placed in your esophagus and is connected to a small computer that you need to wear around the waist.
  • Esophageal motility testing: This test measures the pressure and movement in your esophagus

If you are suffering the symptoms of GERD it is recommended to seek medical attention. People who are diagnosed with GERD need lifestyle changes and medications to help control the symptoms. Your doctor will prescribe medications to regulate the production of stomach acid and heal the esophagus.

Medical Treatment

There are many medications available to treat heartburn. This includes:

  • Antacids help in neutralizing the stomach acids. It may offer you quick relief, but this medicine fails to heal your esophagus if it is damaged by stomach acids.
  • H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) can also help reduce stomach acid but its response time is longer than antacids, though helpful in providing long-time relief.
  • Proton pump inhibitors, such as Omeprazole, Lansoprazole can also help in reducing stomach acid.

Prevention

To prevent Heartburn you can try out the following:

  • Losing weight helps a great deal. Those extra pounds of your stomach works as a force to push more acid into your esophagus.
  • Try wearing loose attire. Wearing tight clothes create pressure on your stomach which results in heartburn.
  • You should quit smoking if you have heartburn. Your smoking habit is interrelated with how much acid your stomach generates.
  • Regular consumption of anti-inflammatory medicines triggers heartburn.
  • Don’t do high impact exercises.
  • In case you are suffering heartburn at night, keep your dinner light and avoid  consuming food that triggers heartburn
  • Do not lie down in your bed for at least 2 hours post-dinner.
  • Use some blocks or anything to keep your head at 4 to 6 inch higher when you sleep. Or use a foam wedge under the mattress to keep your head raised. Sleeping at a particular angle can help you prevent the acids from coming back to the esophagus.
  • lifestyle changes for gerd.
  • You may also need to incorporate a few lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of GERD and you should practice those along with medication.
  • Keep your weight under control. People who are overweight sometimes unconsciously put unnecessary pressure on their abdomen which pushes the stomach gastric cancer triggering the acid to go back to your esophagus.
  • Say no to food items that trigger heartburn. Most spicy foods should be kept away from the list.
  • Avoid having a large meal. Instead, divide your meals into small portions and eat them throughout the day.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes or use any other nicotine products. Both smoking and consuming alcohol decreases the functionality of your sphincters. 
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • If the symptoms are not controlled by medications your doctor may also recommend surgery to heal the LES.

How Diet and Nutrition Affect Gerd

GERD is the backflow of acid from your stomach into the esophagus and hence, diet and nutrition play an important role in regulating the disease because the foods we eat affect the acid production in our stomach. By incorporating specific food items in your diet, you can cut down the risk of higher amounts of acid producing and lower the chances of GERD.  

  • Green Vegetables

Eating green veggies help you in many ways and these are low in fat and sugar. Eating vegetable controls stomach acid and some healthy options you can include are green beans, leafy greens, broccoli, cucumber etc.

  • Ginger

Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and it is used as a natural treatment for gastrointestinal problems. It also reduces heartburn and you can use sliced or grated ginger in your food to ease a few symptoms experienced during heartburn

  • Non-Citrus Fruits

Avoid acidic fruits and swap to non-citrus fruits like melons, apple, pears and bananas that do not trigger acid reflux in your stomach.

  • Lean Meats and Egg Whites

Go for lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish or other seafood as they are low in fat and less likely to trigger acid reflux. Avoid consuming egg yolk which may cause acid reflux symptoms due to its fatty contents.

  • Choose Healthy Fats

Switch to unsaturated fat by including healthy fat options in your diet like walnut, avocados, flax seeds sesame oil and olive oil. 

Foods to avoid

  • Fried and fatty foods of any kind
  • Tomatoes and citrus fruits
  • Chocolate and caffeinated beverages
  • Spicy and tangy food items which include onion, garlic etc.

Can Exercise Cause Heartburn?

Exercise has a lot of health benefits among them is weight loss, which helps as weight gain is the major trigger of heartburn. However, some type of exercises also gives rise to a burning sensation. Try to avoid exercises like crunches or some kind of inverted Yoga poses.

Conclusion

GERD or Heartburn is a health issue that needs to be taken seriously and treated on time. If left untreated, the stomach acid can cause more damage to the esophagus leading to a condition called esophageal ulcers. Hence, taking proper medical attention at the right time is very essential to rule out the likelihood of any serious health complications. The recommended lifestyle changes should also be followed along with medication to cut down the risk of GERD.   

If you are facing this type of Health-related problem to book an instant appointment with Best Gastroenterologist in India to provide effective treatment to all patients at Ask Apollo.

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The content is reviewed and verified by our experienced and highly specialized team of heart specialists who diagnose and treat more than 200 simple-to-complex heart conditions. These specialists dedicate a portion of their clinical time to deliver trustworthy and medically accurate content

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