Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease. GERD occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, stomach content, flows back into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash (reflux) irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD.
What is the main cause of GERD?
Digestion begins in the mouth as food is broken down by chewing into smaller pieces and by saliva releasing digestive enzymes such as α-amylase and Lingual lipase. When food is swallowed it enters the esophagus, a muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach for further digestion. Contractions call peristalsis push food down the esophagus.
At the bottom of the esophagus food passes through a muscular valve called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) and into the stomach. The digestive juices secreted by the stomach are highly acidic. When the stomach contracts to move the food into the intestine the LES closes tightly in order to prevent these acidic juices from moving back into the esophagus where they can cause damage.
A breathing muscle called the diaphragm separates the chest from the abdomen. To reach the stomach the esophagus passes through the diaphragm at a point called the hiatal ring. If the patient has gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, their LES does not close properly allowing acidic stomach contents to flow backward into the esophagus.
What Causes GERD?
— Hiatal hernia,
— Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which can present with increased gastric acidity due to gastrin production.
— Hypercalcemia, which can also increase gastrin production, leading to increased acidity.
— Scleroderma and systemic sclerosis, which can feature esophageal dysmotility.
Is GERD life threatening?
GERD isn’t life-threatening or dangerous in itself, however, if left untreated it can lead to variety of esophageal problems, including:
— Strictures or narrowing,
— Barrett’s esophagus, in which the normal stratified squamous epithelium lining of the esophagus is replaced by simple columnar epithelium, which are usually found lower in the GI tract.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of GERD?
— Epigastric burning pain traveling up into the chest known as (heartburns), which can sometimes spread to the throat, along with a sour metallic taste in the mouth,
— Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia),
— Dry cough,
— Sore throat (due to acid reflux)
— Hoarseness, which is due to acid damaging the larynx or the voice box,
— Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux),
— Sensation of a lump in the throat
How is GERD Diagnosed?
GERD is most often diagnosed based on patient history and symptoms. In some patients in whom the diagnosis is not clear, 24-hour pH monitoring is done to confirm the etiology.
Upper endoscopy is not required in the presence of typical GERD symptoms of heartburn or regurgitation. Upper endoscopy is recommended if the diagnosis of GERD is unclear and in the following individuals:
— Patients with heartburn and alarm symptoms (dysphagia, bleeding, anemia, weight loss, and recurrent vomiting).
— Patients with severe erosive esophagitis after a two-month course of PPI therapy to assess healing and rule out Barrett’s esophagus. Repeat endoscopy after this follow-up examination is not indicated in the absence of Barrett’s esophagus unless patients have bleeding, dysphagia, or a significant change in symptoms while on effective therapy.
— Patients with typical GERD symptoms that persist despite a therapeutic trial of 4-8 of twice-daily PPI therapy.
— In men >50 years of age with chronic GERD symptoms (symptoms for > five years) and additional risk factors (nocturnal reflux symptoms, hiatal hernia, elevated body mass index, tobacco use, and intra-abdominal distribution of fat) to detect esophageal adenocarcinoma and Barrett’s esophagus.
How To Care for Yourself at Home:
- Change your eating habits.
- It’s best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down.
- Chocolate, mint, and alcohol can make GERD worse.
- Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco. Smoking can make GERD worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
- If you have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Do not wear tight clothing around your middle.
- Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new or different belly pain.
- Your stools are black and tar like or have streaks of blood.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your symptoms have not improved after 2 days.
- Food seems to catch in your throat or chest.
What foods neutralize stomach acid?
There are certain foods that can help to neutralize stomach acid. Here are five popular foods to try:
- Bananas. This low-acid fruit can help those with acid reflux by coating an irritated esophageal lining and thereby helping to combat discomfort. Due to their high-fiber content, bananas also can help strengthen your digestive system — which can help ward off indigestion. One soluble fiber found in bananas is pectin, which helps move stomach contents through your digestive tract. And that’s a good thing — because food that sticks around will only continue to generate acid.
- Melons. Like bananas, melons also are a highly alkaline fruit. They are a good source of magnesium, which is found in many medicines for acid reflux. Furthermore, melons have a pH of 6.1, making them only mildly acidic. Especially good are cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
- Oatmeal. Like other high-fiber foods, oatmeal may help stave off acid reflux symptoms. Fiber not only promotes intestinal health, but it also reduces constipation and makes you feel full a long while after eating it. And, of course, when you feel full, you are less likely to overeat and therefore less likely to regurgitate what’s in your stomach into your esophagus. Enjoy your oatmeal with low-fat or almond milk, as both are low in fat and highly alkaline.
- Yogurt. Like bananas, yogurt has a soothing effect that helps keep stomach discomfort at bay. It also contains probiotics, a type of good bacteria found in the digestive tract that gives a boost to your immune system. Being a good protein source means yogurt also improves your ability to properly digest food. Make yogurt even more impactful by adding in a bit of ginger, which can act as an anti-inflammatory in your system.
- Green Vegetables. If you like green vegetables and have acid reflux, you’re in luck. Asparagus, spinach, kale and brussels sprouts all are highly alkaline, meaning they’re good for your stomach and digestive system. Being naturally low in fat and sugar, vegetables also help lessen stomach acid.
How is GERD Treated?
Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be managed with a step-up or step-down approach to therapy. Management approach to patients with GERD is based on the frequency and severity of symptoms and the presence of erosive esophagitis on upper endoscopy, if previously performed.
The STEP-UP approach involves incrementally increasing the potency of therapy until symptom control is achieved.
The STEP-DOWN approach starts with potent anti-secretory agents and then involves incrementally decreasing the potency of therapy until breakthrough symptoms define the treatment necessary for symptom control.
Mild and intermittent symptoms:
STEP-UP therapy for GERD in patients with mild and intermittent symptoms (fewer than two episodes per week) who have no evidence of erosive esophagitis on upper endoscopy.
In patients who are naive to treatment, lifestyle and dietary modification are recommended first along with low-dose histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs).
> Lifestyle and Dietary Modification:
— Weight loss if obese.
— Avoid alcohol, nicotine, spicy food, caffeine, chocolate and peppermint.
— They should also Avoid eating 3-4 hours before sleep.
— Elevate their head off the bed while sleeping.
— Avoidance of tight-fitting garments to prevent increasing intragastric pressure and the gastroesophageal pressure gradient.
— As antacids do not prevent GERD, their role is limited to intermittent (on-demand) use for relief of mild GERD symptoms that occur less than once a week. Antacids usually contain a combination of magnesium trisilicate, aluminum hydroxide, or calcium carbonate, which neutralize gastric pH, thereby decreasing the exposure of the esophageal mucosa to gastric acid during episodes of reflux. Antacids begin to provide relief of heartburn within five minutes, but have a short duration of effect of 30 to 60 minutes.
> Surface Agents and Alginates:
— Sucralfate (aluminum sucrose sulfate), a surface agent, adheres to the mucosal surface, promotes healing, and protects from peptic injury by mechanisms that are incompletely understood. It has a short duration of action and limited efficacy as compared with PPIs.
— Sodium alginate is a polysaccharide derived from seaweed that forms a viscous gum that floats within the stomach and reduces the postprandial acid pocket in the proximal stomach.
> H2 Receptor Antagonists (H2RA):
— H2RA decrease the secretion of acid by inhibiting the histamine 2 receptor on the gastric parietal cell. In contrast to antacids, H2RAs have a slower onset of action, reaching peak concentrations 2.5 hours after dosing, but a significantly longer duration of action of 4 to 10 hours. H2RAs are also more effective in decreasing the frequency and severity of heartburn symptoms as compared with antacids and placebo. However, H2RAs have limited efficacy in patients with erosive esophagitis. While mucosal healing rates in patients with mild erosive esophagitis are 10 to 24 percent higher with H2RA therapy as compared with placebo, H2RAs are ineffective in patients with severe esophagitis.
Severe or frequent symptoms or erosive esophagitis:
STEP-DOWN therapy is recommended in patients with erosive esophagitis, frequent symptoms (two or more episodes per week), and/or severe symptoms that impair quality of life in order to optimize symptom relief. Begin with standard-dose PPI once daily for eight weeks in addition to lifestyle and dietary modification.
> Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs):
— PPI’s should be used in patients who fail twice-daily H2RA therapy and in patients with erosive esophagitis and/or frequent (two or more episodes per week) or severe symptoms of GERD that impair quality of life. PPIs are the most potent inhibitors of gastric acid secretion by irreversibly binding to and inhibiting the hydrogen-potassium (H-K) ATPase pump. Compared with H2RAs, PPIs provide faster symptom relief and are more effective in relieving symptoms of GERD. PPIs should be taken 30 minutes before a meal to maximize acid inhibition.
> Treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection:
— It is uncertain whether chronic acid suppression with PPIs increases the risk for atrophic gastritis in patients with H. pylori. Therefore, routine screening for H. pylori infection and empiric eradication of H. pylori are not recommended in patients with GERD. However, for H. pylori diagnosed in the setting of GERD, eradication of H. pylori has been associated with an improvement of symptoms in patients with antral-predominant gastritis.
For those patients who do not respond to medical therapies surgery may be required.
- Nissen Fundoplication is the standard surgical treatment for severe GERD.
- This surgery is done to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The doctor strengthens the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The doctor wraps the upper part of the stomach (fundus) around the lower part of the esophagus. This prevents stomach acid from moving back into the esophagus. After surgery, you should have fewer symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn.
- This is usually a laparoscopic surgery. This means the doctor makes small cuts in your belly to do the surgery. These cuts are called incisions. The doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other surgical tools through the incisions. The doctor is able to see your organs with the scope. Most people stay in the hospital 2 to 3 days. You will probably be able to go back to work in 2 to 3 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do.
- Your doctor may do an open surgery instead. He or she makes a larger incision in the middle of your belly. You will probably stay in the hospital for 4 or 5 days after open surgery. Most people are able to go back to work 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery.
- The type of surgery you have depends on your health needs. The incisions from both types of surgeries leave scars that fade over time.
- Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.