As with the modern day trends to rename everything doctors are more and more diagnosing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In the old days GERD was more commonly known as hiatal hernia, esophageal reflux or just plain old heartburn.
Call it what you may but you will never change the fact that GERD is what happens when the contents of the stomach leak upstream into the esophagus, which is the muscular tube that links the mouth to the stomach.
For those unsure the typical symptoms of GERD is an acid taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the lower chest.
Make no mistake this condition can be disabling and severe cases can even lead to esophageal cancer.
But most cases can be controlled with lifestyle changes, drugs and in the more extreme cases with surgery.
If you are diagnosed with GERD then the first line of treatment will be to modify your diet. You will need to avoid all foods that are known to trigger reflux. The known foods are chocolate, coffee (including decaf), peppermints and other mints, citrus fruit, spicy and fatty foods.
Smoking and alcohol can also trigger reflux.
There are even some medicines that can worsen GERD including the asthma drug theophylline, anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, tricyclic anti-depressants such as amitritriptyline (Elavil) and calcium channel blockers that are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you are taking any of the above drugs and are diagnosed with GERD then ask your doctor about substituting another drug.
Another thing to watch out for is tight clothing. The reason being is that anything that pushes on the stomach will encourage stomach acid to backwash into the esophagus.
Over eating and being over weight will also cause a problem for sufferers of GERD.
When you are standing or sitting gravity will keep the stomach contents where they are supposed to stay. For this reason GERD sufferers tend to avoid lying down after eating and avoid eating or drinking (even a glass of water) at least two hours before going to bed.
It may also prove beneficial to raise the head in bed either by blocks under the bed or by lifting the mattress with a foam wedge.
Ok so we have looked at lifestyle changes but what happens if these do not bring the desired relief?
Well, the next step is drug therapy and the first line of drug therapy for GERD is antacids.
Antacids bring quick relief by coating the esophagus and helping to neutralize stomach acid.
After antacids the next option is an OTC (over the counter) acid blocker such as Zantac 75 or Pepcid AC.
Should these drugs not help then it is time to ask your doctor for prescription strength versions.
Tagamet is a similar drug and is no more effective than Pepcid or Zantac and can interact with other drugs.
There are other drugs that promote the movement of food through the gut such as Cisapride (Orioulsid).
These drugs can be used alone or as a combination with other drugs.
Prescription Omeprazole (Prilosec) has also proved to be effective in the battle against GERD.
But what if the drug therapy does not work?
Then it is surgery but surgery is only performed as a last resort in controlling GERD.
There is one surgical procedure that is called fundoplication. During this procedure the surgeon wraps the upper portion of the stomach around the lower end of the esophagus.
Although this type of surgery can be beneficial it isn’t always and the symptoms may reoccur years later.
Should you be advised to undergo surgery make sure that you ask your surgeon about laparoscopic techniques. This way recovery time is faster and you will just have small incisions. Plus don’t be too shy to check out the surgeon’s track record for this type of procedure, some have much better luck than others.
Source: The World’s Greatest Treasury of health Secrets – The Bottom Line Publications