One of the most common conditions people experience is gastric or stomach acid. This is a condition that mainly happens to adults, especially after consuming certain food. Although in the past this was not taken that seriously, nowadays, it has been proven that this condition is, in fact, a disease that is known under the name gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD. Generally, this is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter – LES. Unfortunately, a great number of pregnant women also experience some of the GERD symptoms like heartburn and acid indigestion.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux?
Explained by medical persons, gastroesophageal refers to the stomach while reflux means that something flows back or returns. Simply put, GERD is the return of the stomach’s contents back up to the esophagus.
When working normally, the esophagus opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent acid juices and food to flow back into it. As mentioned above, GERD happens when the LES is weak so it doesn’t close properly when the food is in the stomach. The weaker the LES, the more severe the symptoms.
Living with GERD symptoms on a daily basis can be quite difficult, and in some situations unbearable. The constant pain, coughs, heartburn and sleepless nights can be exhausting, but fortunately, nowadays there is a treatment for this condition. Medicine is way more advanced these days, so now people can choose the right type of reflux medication. If not treated with the right reflux medication, GERD can pose some serious long-term health risks which can cause permanent esophagus complications like esophageal cancer. That is why treating GERD is paramount, whether with prescription or over-the-counter reflux medication.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – These are one of the most common types of prescribed medications that are considered a standard GERD treatment. Aciphex, Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec and Protonix are the types of drugs that fall into this category and their main purpose is to block the production of acid in the stomach while protecting and allowing the esophagus to heal.
H2 Blockers – This medicine can be both prescribed and purchased over-the-counter. They usually include drugs like Pepcid, Axid, Zantac and Tagamet which in the past were used as the standard type of GERD treatment. Some doctors still recommend them as a primary GERD treatment, especially for those with mild symptoms.
Antacids – Antacids are a type of heartburn medicine that can provide immediate relieve. The main disadvantage of this reflux medication is that they should not be used regularly and for a prolonged period of time.
Prokinetics – These fall into the prescription drugs category and they are great for speeding up the emptying of the stomach. While they are considered helpful in treating GERD symptoms, experts say that they are not helpful in the long run.
While all these reflux medication drugs are considered the main treatments for GERD, the symptoms can be minimized or prevented by avoiding certain foods and sticking to some helpful habits.
Avoid Specific Foods – The first and most important step GERD sufferers need to undertake is diet change. Simply put, they should avoid foods which are considered GERD triggers. These include: coffee, peppermint, chocolate, citrus juices, alcohol and tomatoes. Although this may vary from one person to another, they should test it on their own. According to experts, one should not quit them completely, but to take them moderately. People should also avoid eating spicy food and have coffee after such meal, as that’s how GERD symptoms are sure to appear, and a lot.
Eat in Smaller Quantities – Instead of eating three big meals, reflux sufferers should eat more frequently but in smaller quantities. Simple as that.
Don’t Eat before Bed – Although this rule should be followed by everyone, reflux sufferers should try to stick to it more rigorously as this gives the stomach enough time to empty before bedtime. A rule to remember is to eat two to three hours before going to bed.
Sleeping on an Elevated Bed – Experts state that keeping the head 15-20cm above the bed can prevent the acids in the stomach from flowing into the esophagus during the night. Unfortunately, not all people can get used to this as some love sleeping on a flat pillow or even without it.
Lose Weight – According to experts, those who have problems with their weight are at a higher risk of developing a reflux disease. If you are already experiencing reflux, according to doctors, you should lose at least 10% of your weight.
Take the Medications as Prescribed – Just like with every disease, reflux symptoms may come and go, but unfortunately, the condition remains the same. If prescribed long-term medications, you should take them on a regular basis no matter the symptoms. According to experts, one should stop taking their medications only if told so by the doctor.