Heartburn & GERD

What is GERD?

When we eat, the food is first digested in the mouth while it is being mechanically ground by the teeth. Saliva contains enzymes that help break down complex sugars into smaller carbohydrate molecules. As we swallow, food goes down our digestive tube, the oesophagus, which is lined by smooth muscles that contract in a movement called peristalsis. These series of muscular contraction pushes the food down to pass through the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), or the muscular valve that opens and closes the entrance to the stomach. Once in the stomach, gastric acids further digest the food and dissolve larger compounds.

Sometimes, stomach acids find their way up through the LES and into the oesophagus, possibly due to some medications taken or after drinking alcohol. Such a condition is termed as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and commonly occurs when the LES does not close when it should. This can also occur when the diaphragm, or the muscle below the lungs and next to the stomach, pushes up the stomach, causing the upward flow of gastric acids. Thus, Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is defined as chronic symptoms or mucosal damage produced by the abnormal reflux in the esophagus, occurring due to the incompetence of lower esophageal sphincter (LES), transient LES relaxation, impaired expulsion of gastric reflux from the esophagus, or a hiatal hernia.

This can occur in pregnant women as well. The condition can also be referred to as heartburn, because the acidic content of the stomach causes a painful or burning sensation in the chest or the back of the mouth.

This usually happens because of temporary or permanent changes in the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach.

GERD is a very itchy disease and cause a lot of pain and unrest to person who is suffering from it. This disease creates constant unrest in the body of the patient.

Some of the habits and types of food that aggravate the occurrence of GERD or heartburn are: smoking, excessive alcohol intake, fatty and cholesterol-rich foods, citrus fruits, high caffeine drinks like soda and coffee, chocolate, mint-flavored food, onions and garlic, dishes with tomato sauces, and spicy food. People who are obese are also highly likely to experience heartburn or GERD.

GERD may occur both in the adults and the children but their symptoms may vary from each other. GERD in both adults and minors are discussed below in details.

Adult GERD

GERD may occur in the adult due to many reasons and could be detected by the symptoms it shows. As said earlier that it is a very itchy and painful disease, it tells about its presence with a loud shout in the form of uneasiness and unrest in the patient.

Heartburn is the major symptom of acid in the esophagus and is characterized by burning discomfort behind the breastbone (sternum). Findings in the GERD may include esophagitis, inflammatory changes in the esophageal lining, strictures, difficulty in swallowing also known as dysphagia and a very chronic chest pain. Some patients may have only one or few of those findings. Some typical symptoms showing the GERD in the person may include cough, hoarseness, voice changes, chronic ache, burning chest pains, nausea or sinusitis.
Complications in the form of GERD may lead to stricture formation, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal ulcers, and possibly even lead to esophageal cancer, especially in the adults of the age more than 60 years.

Child GERD

Children are very likely to be effected by GERD. Detection of GERD is very difficult in the infants and children of younger age. The symptoms of the children can also change from that of the typical adult symptoms. These symptoms may include different problems and GERD may cause repeated vomiting, effortless spitting up, coughing and other respiratory problems. Along with this inconsolable crying, failure to gain adequate weight, refusing food, bad breath and belching or burping may also show them and are also common.

Children may have one symptom or too many and no single symptom is universal in all children. Every child may have its own symptoms; it is upon the doctor to analyze the fact that what actually is going through in the body of the child.

GERD is extremely common in children especially in infants.
Almost every infant is born with this problem and faces this problem in the first few months of their life. After that time they tend to solve this problem and those who are not able to solve this problem may go into their teenage with this problem. Babies’ immature digestive system is usually the cause and they stop having acid reflux when their digestive system gets better.
GERD is very bitter disease for children to bear and it is on the judgments of the doctor that this disease in the infants in cured.

How can garstoesophageal reflux disease be avoided? Since this condition is more common in infants and children rather than adults, it helps to feed the child small, frequent meals. Aside from that, an infant should be burped after breastfeeding or drinking formula. For young children, they should not eat snacks about two to three hours before bedtime.

Adults can deal with heartburn and GERD by changing their health habits. Cessation of smoking and alcohol intake can help a lot. Plus, after eating a heavy meal, avoid sitting down for too long or lying down. Allow more than three hours for food to settle down the digestive system. Balancing your diet by eating the abovementioned foods in moderated amounts can prevent the occurrence of heartburn. If you are overweight or obese, try losing weight with regular exercise and the proper diet. Wearing of loose-fitting clothes can prevent constriction and allow food to be digested more efficiently.

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