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GERD Symptoms

“What is gerd and its symptoms?” – this is one of the most common questions posed to physicians and health care providers. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux disease is a condition that is caused by the acids in the stomach rising into the esophagus. This causes a considerable amount of damage to the lining of the esophagus. GERD affects adults and children alike but it is hard to detect the condition in toddlers. 

The most common of all gerd symptoms is chest pain.  This is commonly known as heartburn and is experienced in the form of a sharp, stabbing pain or a burning sensation experienced in the middle of the chest, behind the breastbone. The pain may also spread to the back.
It is not unheard of for this pain to resemble the pain experienced in the case of heart disease, namely angina. Heartburn is mainly experienced after meals, especially when the affected person sleeps or lies down immediately after eating food. The refluxed acidic liquid usually reaches the base of the esophagus, thus affecting the nerves in that area, making the region sore. In some cases, the acidic fluid, along with some food particles, may travel up into the upper esophagus. The fluid and food particles are usually restricted from entering the mouth by the muscles present in the upper esophagus. However, at times, the muscles may not be able to hold back the matter as a result of the force it is expelled with. If the stomach acids reach the upper esophagus, in most cases, heartburn is not caused. Hence, this form of acid reflux is also called silent gerd. If the acidic mixture escapes from the esophagus, it could cause erosion of the throat as well as of the teeth, if it rises into the mouth. As a result of such gerd symptoms, throat discomfort is commonly experienced. Throat conditions take longer to heal as the area becomes more susceptible to infection as a result of the erosion. This makes swallowing food difficult. These are silent gerd symptoms. Burping or belching, bad breath and unexplained nausea and vomiting could also be indicators of gerd. Gerd symptoms in infants include an unwillingness to consume foods or fluids, spitting out of food and repeated vomiting. Coughing, irritability and inconsolable crying are also associated with gerd. However, more often than not, these signs are mistaken for temper tantrums. Parents take these signs seriously only when the child fails to gain an adequate amount of weight.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Causes

The main cause of gerd is a malfunctioning of the muscles in the esophageal portion of the digestive tract. Once the food is ingested, the lower esophageal sphincter or the bands of muscles at the base of the esophagus act like a one-way valve to ensure that neither food particles nor digestive juices from the stomach rise back into the esophagus, once the ingested food has passed into the stomach. However, in individuals suffering from gerd, this valve does not function properly as a result of irregular contraction of the muscles. As a result of this, food from the stomach along with acids from the stomach flow back into the esophagus, thus affecting the walls of the esophagus and causing heartburn. Hiatal hernia is another cause of gerd. In this case, the upper portion of the stomach encroaches into the chest cavity through the diaphragm. As a result of this, the valve does not close completely. In addition, when the stomach is full, the excess contents automatically rise into the esophagus resulting in a general feeling of discomfort. Gerd symptoms of cough and asthma are triggered by acid droplets that interfere with the respiratory tract. They may also get inhaled and cause complications in the lungs. It is essential to determine gerd causes and symptoms. It is no use treating a disorder without knowing the exact cause and symptom. Hence, only once the cause is ascertained can the gerd symptoms and treatment be correlated.

GERD Treatments

Antacids are the most common among all gerd medications. Gerd can cause a lot of discomfort and many individuals suffering from gerd tend to self medicate rather than consult a doctor. This is not advisable as unsuitable medication could worsen the condition or could cause conditions like constipation as well as fatigue and drowsiness. The most important of all gerd natural remedies is the increased intake of water as water helps in neutralizing the effect of the stomach acids on the lining of the esophagus, thus preventing the symptoms of gerd. Natural cures for gerd also include avoiding the consumption of large meals. Instead, having small portions of easy to digest foods such as salads and fruits is an advisable option when suffering from a bout of heartburn. Bland foods are recommended at such times. Gerd diet restrictions include staying away from foods that are spicy, oily, fatty as well as acidic as these foods aggravate the condition. Other home remedies for gerd are drinking buttermilk at regular intervals as well as chewing in cumin seeds after every meal. For those who are obese, weight loss is essential for a gerd cure. Natural remedies for gerd also include regular exercise, especially a short walk after every meal, for better digestion of food. Sleeping immediately after a meal should be avoided completely. Using a high pillow helps in preventing the digestive juices from rising into the esophagus. In addition, people suffering from gerd should make it a point to ensure that they do not wear clothing that is tight around the waist as such clothing hampers the proper digestion of food.   

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Surgery

When home remedies and medication so not help in gerd prevention, one may consider gerd surgery options. The best invasive option for the treatment of gerd is Nissen fundoplication. In this case, through a laparoscopic method, the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter in order to strengthen the sphincter. It also helps in repairing a hiatal hernia. There are no prominent gerd surgery side effects in the case of fundoplication. However, some individuals are known to experience gas buildup or a difficulty in swallowing food along with the recurrence of heartburn occasionally.    
Submitted on January 16, 2014