Acid Reflux & Gerd - What is heartburn?
Heartburn refers to the symptoms you feel when acids in your stomach flow backward into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the back of your mouth to your stomach. Heartburn, also called gastroesophageal reflux or GERD, is a common problem. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the heart.
How does it occur?
At the bottom of the esophagus is a ring like muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. When you swallow food, this muscular ring opens to let the food pass into the stomach. The ring then closes to prevent the stomach contents from going back into the esophagus.
When this sphincter muscle is not working properly, stomach acid and food flow backward into the esophagus. Because the esophagus does not have the protective lining that the stomach has, the acid causes pain. For some reason, that I have not found an explanation for folks with copd and certain inhalers tend to get GERDS. It is very common amongst us.
What are the symptoms of Gerds/Heartburn?
The main symptom of heartburn is a burning pain in the lower chest, usually close to the bottom of the breast bone. Other symptoms you may have are: Acid or sour taste in your mouth , belching and the sensation of bloating or fullness of the stomach. These symptoms tend to occur after very large meals and especially with activity such as bending or lifting after meals. The symptoms may be made worse by lying down or by wearing tight clothing.
Heartburn is very common for people with big stomachs. The weight of the stomach pushes on the stomach and can cause the sphincter to allow acid to flow back into the esophagus.
How is it diagnosed?
If there is any question about the diagnosis, the following tests allow your health care provider to check for ulcers or other problems that might cause your symptoms:
*Complete upper GI (gastrointestinal) barium x-ray study
*upper endoscopy, a procedure in which a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera is placed in your mouth and down into your stomach so your provider can see your esophagus.
How is it treated?
To help prevent heartburn you can:
*Try to not put a lot of pressure on the sphincter muscle. Eating light meals, wearing loose clothing, and losing any excess weight will help.
*Take non prescription antacids (tablets or liquid) after meals and at bedtime.
*Avoid substances likely to make symptoms worse, for example, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, aspirin, acidic food and drinks (orange juice), and spicy foods.
*Raise the head of your bed or use more than one pillow so your head is higher than your stomach. This may allow gravity to help reduce symptoms.
If the simple measures described above do not relieve the symptoms, your health care provider may prescribe medicine. The prescription medicines help reduce stomach acid.
How long will the effects last?
Heartburn symptoms are usually relieved by treatment in just a few days. However, the symptoms may recur from time to time, especially if you gain weight or increase your use of nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine, or if you eat more spicy foods.
What can be done to help prevent heartburn?
The best prevention is to maintain a normal body weight, eat a healthy diet, and avoid substances that seem to cause heartburn. You don't have to live with heartburn. Just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be the difference between pain-free days and frequent flare-ups.
Try these tips:
*Loosen Your Belt Wearing loose clothing will decrease pressure on your abdomen, making it less likely that acid reflux will occur. You will know your clothing is too tight if you can't easily fit two fingers inside your waist band.
*Avoid Food Triggers Although they may taste good, the discomfort that results from eating certain foods may make a few items off limits
*Stress may increase heartburn symptoms, so it's important to make time for yourself every day Try reclining slightly with a good book, a movie, or your favorite music.
*Make a Meal Last - Stretch out your eating time over at least 20 minutes. If you eat too fast, you are more likely to overeat and induce heartburn. Drinking water with your meals also may help you to slow your pace.
*Resist Reclining - lying down on a full stomach or while you eat increases pressure on the abdomen, which can lead to heartburn. Give your stomach time to digest food properly by remaining upright for at least three hours after you finish eating.