Acid Reflux & GERD

What is Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease is characterized by troublesome symptoms which impair a person’s quality of life and/or cause injury and complications that result from the retrograde (or backward) flow of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus, oropharynx and/or respiratory tract.

Why is it acidic in the stomach?

An acidic environment is required to aid in digestion.

What happens during Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which opens when swallowing and closes once food passes, does not close properly. This allows digestive acids and stomach contents to be regurgitated back up the food pipe.

What are other causes and risk factors of Acid Reflux?

  • Eating large meals and lying down or bending over immediately after
  • Eating late at night before bedtime
  • Eating certain food such as processed or high-fat food, spicy food, chocolate, citrus fruits, mint, garlic and onions
  • Drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages
  • Taking painkillers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and blood pressure medications
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Pregnancy

What happens if I don’t treat Acid Reflux?

Left untreated, acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may result in long-term complications, including:

  • Esophagitis – Inflammation or irritation of the lining of the esophagus, leading to bleeding and ulcers.
  • Esophageal stricture – Narrowing of the esophagus due to digestive acids causing inflammation and scarring in the esophageal lining.
  • Barrett’s esophagus – Normal esophageal tissues are replaced with abnormal tissues similar to those found in the intestines.
  • Esophageal cancer – Both esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus increase one’s risk of developing esophageal cancer.

What are the main symptoms of GERD?

Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest, is the most common symptom of GERD.

Regurgitation is the perception of flow of refluxed gastric content into the mouth of throat. Individuals usually regurgitation acidic contents which may contain small amounts of undigested food.

You should consult a gastroenterologist if your symptoms occur more than 1-2 days per week.

What are the other symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Apart from heartburn and regurgitation, acid reflux may be accompanied by:

  • Dry cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Nausea

Can Acid Reflux cause tooth decay?

Continuous acid reflux can ultimately cause the stomach acid to flow back up the esophagus and into the mouth. This repeatedly exposes the teeth to the stomach acid, eventually resulting in dry mouth conditions, dental plaque, cavities and tooth decay.

How can I prevent Acid Reflux naturally?

Depending on the cause, acid reflux treatment can be as simple as avoiding certain food, beverages and activities that may trigger symptoms. For instance, eating smaller meals at least 3 hours before bedtime, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as adopting a healthier lifestyle can help prevent acid reflux episodes.

What Medications are Used in Acid Reflux Treatment?

Medications are prescribed if symptoms of acid reflux persist or worsen. These include:

  • Over-the-counter antacids, which neutralize stomach acid
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and H2 blockers, which reduce stomach acid production
  • Prokinetics, which strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter and improve gastrointestinal motility

What if my acid reflux does not improve with lifestyle changes and medications?

If symptoms do not improve with medications and lifestyle modifications, surgery is advised. Currently, there are two procedures used to address acid reflux and GERD:

  • LINX System – A ring of titanium beads is placed around the lower part of the esophagus to keep food down in the stomach.
  • Fundoplication – The upper part of the stomach is pulled and wrapped around the LES, and sutured in place.

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