Introduction to Acid Reflux – GERD

The stomach contains enzymes like pepsin and acids that help in the breakdown of food. Sometimes these toxic fluids flow into the oesophagus and lead to the condition commonly known as Acid Reflux, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). In some cases, these fluids can cause serious damage to the oesophagus.

Introduction to Acid Reflux GERD
Introduction to Acid Reflux GERD

Acid Reflux Disease

Acid reflux disease, also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, afflicts millions of people. Many suffer from an occasional bout with heartburn, but acid reflux disease, as a diagnosis, should only be made if the heartburn causes impediments to your lifestyle due to severe, chronic discomfort over prolonged periods of time. Usually, if you suffer from heartburn 2 or more times per week for at least 12 weeks, there’s a good chance that your diagnosis would be GERD. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes acid reflux disease, but there is an ample amount of information available at your doctor’s office and on the Internet.

The good news is that acid reflux disease is a highly manageable condition, though it can lead to potentially serious, chronic conditions. Many avenues are available with regard to treatment options. The most common options recommended include lifestyle changes, medical treatments, stress management, and/or a combination of all strategies.

GERD is a chronic disease and hence once the disease begins, it is likely to remain for the rest of one’s life. The only treatment would be to reduce the discomfort caused by acid reflux and to prevent further discomfort. If the oesophagus is damaged, continuous treatment is necessary.

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Though everyday acid reflux and GERD patients suffer from the flow of acids into the oesophagus, the amount of acidity and the duration for which the acid remains in the oesophagus differs. The human body has a natural defence mechanism to fight against acid reflux. The occurrence of acid reflux is usually during the daytime. Since the patients usually sit or stand during the day, there is not much discomfort caused. Due to gravitational force, the acids entering the oesophagus are pulled back into the stomach. Moreover, when awake, people swallow saliva continuously which force the acids back into the stomach. All these help to reduce pain and discomfort.

The actual problem occurs when the patient is lying down or sleeping. The natural defence of the body is effective only during the waking hours when the person sits or stands. When sleeping, neither the fluid is pulled back through gravity nor do the patients swallow saliva, which can push back the reflux into the stomach. Hence these toxic acid contents stay back in the oesophagus for a long time and can cause damage to it.

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Not all people have the same level of discomfort and pain. Different people experience different levels of pain. Certain physical conditions like pregnancy can also increase uneasiness due to acid reflux. Pregnant women have increased levels of hormones which decrease the pressure on the muscle and block reflux. Also, there is increased pressure from the baby in the lower abdomen. All these conditions during pregnancy tend to increase discomfort. Hence pregnant women find it difficult to tolerate acid reflux.

Some patients with conditions such as scleroderma, which weaken the muscles of the oesophagus, are more prone to acid reflux. Such patients usually have a high level of acid reflux and as a result suffer from more pain, discomfort and distress.

In case you find yourself plagued with symptoms of acid reflux and still unsure of the disease, you must first consult your doctor to analyze the condition. If you are found to have acid reflux, the doctor can advise you with proper treatment and medicines to tackle your condition and help you relieve discomfort.

An acid reflux condition is not to be ignored. If not treated in time, it may cause serious damage to the oesophagus. Hence in case of any symptoms, it’s necessary to consult and seek medical help. If treated in a timely fashion, a lot of uneasiness and pain can be avoided.

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What is Acid Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux disease is a chronic condition in which stomach acid washes back up onto the oesophagus, causing severe discomfort. Stomach acid burns the oesophagus lining due to a relaxed lower oesophagal sphincter (LES). The LES acts as a valve between your stomach and the oesophagus. The valve is designed to open and allow food into the stomach, and then close, protecting the oesophagus from acids. However, if the LES is not closing properly, acid rushes or refluxes upward, coating the oesophagus and causing a burning sensation.

Remember that it’s normal to suffer from acid reflux (heartburn) every once in and while. It’s only acid reflux disease when it’s a chronic condition, happening frequently and for long periods of time. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. One more thing to keep in mind is that heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. It just feels that way at times because the oesophagus is located behind the heart.

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