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GERD: All You Need To Know About Your Digestive Health

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GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is one of the leading causes of digestive health degradation. This condition is the prime sign of lousy food habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. Retrograde passage of stomach content and acids to the lower esophagus causes GERD primarily. There are two types of GERD. One is non-erosive. Here no esophageal inflammation is seen on endoscopy. About 50% of -70% of people suffer from this variety. The rest of the 20% of cases are severe. You will find esophageal inflammation, stricture, even rupture in these cases. 

Why Does It Occur?

The primary mechanism of this acid reflux is the abnormal functions of the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter insufficiency can’t prevent the backflow of stomach content. The gastric contents of our stomach are highly acidic( ph is about 1.5-2). It irritates the mucosa of the esophagus and induces inflammatory responses. In two-third of cases, this mechanism is responsible. Apart from this, ingestion of greasy food, wine, spices can exaggerate the process. Pregnancy, obesity, stress, diaphragm insufficiency are the common causes of GERD. The cause of the reflux (กรดไหลย้อน) may be iatrogenic (unknown) or congenital. Any intestinal tumor or cancer may worsen the condition.

Deficiency of intestinal protective factors like saliva, mucous, and alkaline secretions are significant reasons for this condition. 

Signs And Symptoms 

GERD presents clinically with heartburn (Retro-sternal pain)  in the early stages. The problem worsens in lying condition due to the gravitational pull. Non-productive or nocturnal cough is a sign of long term effect. Patients may also have nausea, vomiting, and dysphagia (a problem in swallowing).

Usually, an endoscopy is enough to diagnose GERD. In cases of extreme pain or problem in swallowing, an extended period of symptoms, non-cardiac pain, and absence of response to the essential PPI (proton pump inhibitor) therapy, doctors prescribe upper endoscopy, EGD (Esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy)

This procedure was excruciating for patients before. But nowadays, the improved anesthetics made the situation better. A painless endoscopy gives relief to the patient. Thus we can expect a better and more detailed report. A tissue sample is collected for histopathological tests to detect malignancy (cancer) in patients with extensive symptoms. 

Treatment

GERD is not a disease but a symptom. To treat any condition, first, we have to find the root cause. So the treatment of GERD depends on the above-mentioned pathological reasons, and it will vary from person to person.

On a general grade, treatment starts with empirical therapy (best guessing the cause) for the patient’s immediate relief. Doctors use PPI at standard doses.

Lifestyle modification shows the best possible results in the treatment of GERD. Having a healthy diet, especially the vegan one, helps a lot. Because vegetables and fruits are mainly alkaline and contain more fibers, divide the food intake in small portions four to five times a day. Food intake in a particular time of the day reduces the chance of excess acid formation and reflux. 

Avoid the triggers of GERD. Like alcohol, smoking, nicotine in any form, spicy food, lying straight on the back, or belly are the main culprits to induce the process. Sometimes surgical procedures are also done in case of some specific organism caused GERD. 

Conclusion

Our whole body depends on the digestive system for energy, enzymes, and some vital functions. Diseases like GERD reduce efficiency and cause several complications, like structure esophagus, malignancy, and such. To avoid the painful condition, know about the factors that may induce the symptoms. Moderating lifestyles are always better than regretting later because a healthy life solves more problems than you may imagine.

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