People often ignore their gut’s cries for help and do not believe their gut health to be important. They couldn’t be more wrong. Gut health is key to the overall health of the person. The most common condition affecting our stomach is heartburn, acidity, and GERD.
However, it is very confusing to understand these conditions as GERD symptoms are often heartburn and acidity while both of them can also present on their own without the presence of GERD.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid Reflux is the common name for Gastroesophageal Reflux or GER and it refers to the backflow of stomach acid from the stomach, up the oesophagus or food pipe. The feeling of acid in the food pipe and the throat is what is known as heartburn. Acid reflux is often experienced after heavy meals, laying down right after eating, or in the mornings when hungry.
Acid reflux leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and a burning sesntation in the chest, both of which are extremely uncomfortable to deal with. There are many causes of GER or acid reflux or acidity, with certain foods acting as triggers for acidity episodes. Acid reflux treatment is often symptomatic and relies mostly on the use of antacids and avoidance of triggering foods.
Acid reflux can also present as:
- Dry cough
- Sore and congested throat
- Pressure in the chest and burning
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is the more severe form of GER or acid reflux. Repetitive episodes of acid reflux are the hallmark of GERD and a sign that acidity has progressed to full-blown GERD. Managing the symptoms and signs of GERD is crucial for avoiding the development of GERD complications.
GERD symptoms often include:
- Damaged teeth due to the enamel being exposed to acid
- Severe heartburn
- Regurgitation of stomach contents, especially after a heavy meal
- Chest pain and pressure
- Bad breath
- Sore throat making it difficult to swallow
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a major medical condition that can progress to Barrets Oesophagus, and eventually, carcinoma. Acid reflux treatment before it progresses to GERD, and eventually cancer, is highly recommended to avoid complications.
Acid Reflux Vs GERD: Is It the Same Thing?
Acid reflux and GERD are not the same things although they are most commonly mistaken to be. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a severe form of acid reflux and the sensation produced by acid reflux is heartburn. It is important to know the difference so that you can manage it in the early stages before it can progress further and cause complications.
Acid Reflux & GERD in Children
Acid reflux and GERD can occur in children as well. In fact, it is much more common in them as their stomachs are smaller and it is easier for food to regurgitate along with the stomach acid.
Acid reflux and GERD symptoms in children present as:
- Difficult feedings with the child crying excessively after feeding
- Food regurgitation with burping, often forceful
- Choking and coughing after feeds
- Excessive spit ups
- Excessive salivary spit ups
- Breathing difficulties
Acid reflux treatment in children should be initiated as early as possible to avoid complications of the condition. Moreover, both acid reflux and GERD symptoms make it difficult for a child to gain weight normally so appropriate and timely management is key.
Acid Reflux in Pregnancy
Pregnant women often experience GERD symptoms and acid reflux, some with much more severity than others. The foetus in the womb pushes on the stomach, forcing food and stomach acid to regurgitate.
GERD symptoms in pregnancy can develop even in women who didn’t have gastroesophageal relic disease before pregnancy. And similarly, the symptoms resolve after pregnancy, not requiring any acid reflux treatment. Symptomatic relief can be found with over-the-counter antacids during pregnancy. Lifestyle changes and eating a healthier diet without trigger foods for acid reflux can also help with pain relief.
How to Manage Acid Reflux and GERD?
Acid reflux treatment is mostly dependent on antacids which neutralize the acid to reduce the bitter taste in the back of the throat and the burning sensation in the chest. Some of the common medical acid reflux treatments, also used in GERD, are:
- Proton pump inhibitors
- H2 Blockers
GERD symptoms can also be managed by lifestyle changes such as:
- Smoking cessation
- Wearing loose clothing, and avoiding tight clothing such as high-waisted jeans
- Eating multiple small meals instead of one large meal
- Not sleeping right after eating
- Avoiding trigger foods such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, and spicy foods.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can also be treated with surgery that tightens the opening between the stomach and oesophagus to reduce the regurgitation of food and acid. However, this treatment option is only for severe cases of GERD.
Timely diagnosis and treatment of GERD symptoms and acid reflux are key for maintaining good overall health as both of these conditions can significantly reduce the quality of life.