GERDs Disease – Everything You Need To Know
Before we get started, I must say outright: there is no such thing as GERDS or Gerd’s Disease. GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease; Gerd is not a person’s name!
This misconception is common, but please remember this distinction for your own sake. You do not want to embarrass yourself by asking your doctor about “Gerds” or mentioning “Gerd’s Disease” to a friend!
About GERD (not GERDS!)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is the term given for chronic acid reflux; regularly occurring reflux spanning over a period of time.
The distinction for GERD over heartburn is important because GERD may result in a life-threatening condition if left untreated, whereas getting heartburn on occasion is not much to worry about.
Causes of GERD
GERD occurs when food or liquid leaves the stomach and enters the esophagus. This can occur whenever the lower esophageal sphincter (the LES) relaxes or is inhibited.
The LES is a band of muscle that circles the junction of the esophagus and stomach. Normally it remains in a contracted position, sealing off the top of the stomach, much like the string at the top of a cinch bag.
If this muscle relaxes, the stomach’s contents may flow backwards from the stomach into the esophagus. This is known as reflux. If this occurs on a regular basis, it is often called GERD.
Many things can cause the LES to relax, including certain foods and chemicals (like alcohol). Other health factors like obesity can also increase the likelihood of developing GERD. GERD may also develop as a result of physical defects, such as due to a hiatal hernia or a recent abdominal surgery.
The causes of GERD vary wildly from person to person. A good idea is to try to remember what exactly was the precipitating event for your reflux. Keep a food journal and note when a particular food results in “Gerds”. Over time you will find that certain foods do not match with your digestive system, and you can avoid those in the future.
How GERD is Treated
Patients will find that “Gerds” is typically treated by a two-pronged approach: medication and lifestyle changes. Note: for those without GERD but rather occasional heartburn, dietary changes and heartburn remedies can help remove discomfort.
Typically, your doctor may prescribe a medication such as a proton-pump inhibitor or an H2-blocker. However, since diet, smoking, alcohol use, and obesity play a major role in GERD, removing irritating foods from your diet, losing weight, and abstaining from alcohol and tobacco may significantly reduce GERD as well.
Many patients who wish to avoid medication will find that dietary changes, weight loss, and cessation of drugs and alcohol can even eliminate GERD.
Many doctors and other medical professionals have begun to criticize GERD medications as over-prescribed. There may be some truth to this as GERD is heavily dependent upon lifestyle choices.
Despite lifestyle playing a major role in GERD, the reality of the situation is that these lifestyle changes can be very hard to make. This somber situation is reflected by GERD medications being a multi-billion dollar industry.