GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition in which acid from the stomach makes its way up into the throat, where it damages the lining. It is common to experience these symptoms, to a small extent, after drinking something acidic or eating far too much. These symptoms are known as acid reflux or heartburn, but GERD refers to a more serious condition in which the problem has become chronic.
GERD and stress
Just as everyone occasionally experiences heartburn, everybody also sometimes experiences stress. This is a natural and healthy part of life, but problems can develop when it becomes chronic. People who suffer from anxiety disorders or who cannot escape stressful situations often end up with too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their systems and this can damage the lining of the gut. It is believed to be the reason why stress is associated with a range of digestive disorders, including GERD. Of course, living with GERD is itself stressful, so the problem can become self-perpetuating, which makes it all the more important to take prompt action.
Why GERD matters
Although it might not seem like a big deal at first, GERD can lead to very serious problems if left untreated. Unlike the stomach, the throat is not designed to cope with acid and doesn’t have an adequate protective layer. Ongoing exposure can lead to it becoming scarred and swollen to the point where swallowing is difficult. In some cases, acid may get into the windpipe and even into the lungs, causing problems with breathing. This has been suggested as a possible reason for the known association between GERD and asthma.
In addition to damaging the throat and lungs, acid can also damage the mouth, resulting in painful ulcers. It can weaken the gums and corrode tooth enamel, causing serious dental problems and even the loss of teeth.
Self-help for GERD
There are several simple ways to reduce the risk of GERD and similar conditions. One is to simply cut down on acidic food and drink, especially in the evenings, as a high level of acid is produced overnight. Avoiding tomatoes as part of a late evening meal and cutting out alcohol and soda pop can help considerably. It’s also possible to soak up excess acid by eating absorbent foods, such as wholemeal bread or rice. Acid can be neutralized by drinking barley water or dissolved baking soda, while eating smaller meals, more frequently, can help; even if the overall amount of food consumed per day remains the same.
Medical help for GERD
If GERD problems persist despite efforts to treat them at home, it is advisable to seek medical help as soon as possible. Because GERD is quite common a great deal of research has been carried out into the condition and there are some very effective medicines on the market. A doctor may suggest that a patient buy esomeprazole or in extreme cases, may recommend surgery. Whatever option is chosen, the sooner it is acted on, the better the chances of a full recovery.