Gastroesophageal reflux: symptoms, causes, treatment. What are the methods of preventing this condition.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition in which stomach contents back up into the esophagus, causing unpleasant and in some cases potentially dangerous symptoms.
What is gastroesophageal reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux is the result of improper or weakened relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle located between the esophagus and stomach. This sphincter must contract tightly after food and liquids enter the stomach to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus. When the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t work properly, acidic stomach contents can back up into the esophagus, causing typical symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.
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There are several factors that can contribute to the development of gastroesophageal reflux:
Relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter: Most often, GERD occurs due to a temporary weakening or relaxation of the LES, which causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
Lifestyle: Excessive consumption of fatty, spicy, or acidic foods, as well as smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress can increase the risk of GERD.
Hiatus hernia of the diaphragm: This condition occurs when part of the stomach is pushed into the diaphragmatic opening of the chest. This can loosen the LES and ease reflux.
Obesity: Excess weight can increase pressure on the stomach and interfere with the normal functioning of the LES.
Task: Hormonal changes and the pressure exerted by an enlarged uterus can help relax the LES.
Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux
Burns of the stomach: Burning sensation in the upper abdomen or chest.
Regurgitation: The return of stomach contents to the mouth or throat.
Chest pain: The symptoms may be similar to those of a heart attack, such as chest pain and pressure.
Frequent shortness of breath or belching: These symptoms can occur when stomach acid irritates the esophagus and upper digestive tract.
Chronic cough or hoarseness: Acid reflux can irritate the vocal cords and cause coughing or voice changes.
Treatment options for gastroesophageal reflux
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce GERD symptoms. Avoid foods that cause irritation, lose weight if necessary, quit smoking, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Obesity is a risk factor for developing gastroesophageal reflux because being overweight can increase pressure on the stomach and impair lower esophageal sphincter function. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of GER.
Avoiding fatty, spicy, acidic foods, as well as caffeine and chocolate, can help reduce symptoms. Eating smaller meals more often can also help.
Prolonged chewing of food helps to improve digestion and reduce stress on the stomach. Eating slowly and mindfully can help prevent acid reflux.
Eating food shortly before bed can increase the risk of nighttime reflux. Try to eat at least 2-3 hours before bed.
Tight clothes, especially those that are tight on the stomach, can put pressure on the stomach and contribute to acid reflux.
In severe or refractory cases, surgery to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter or surgery to repair a hiatal hernia may be considered.
If you have frequent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux or if symptoms become severe, see a specialist. A specialist can give you individual advice and evaluate whether a particular treatment is necessary.
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Gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition that can cause discomfort and symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying causes, there are several treatment options. It is important to see your doctor for evaluation and personalized advice, especially if you have persistent or severe symptoms. With lifestyle changes, diet, and appropriate treatment, most people can successfully manage gastroesophageal reflux and improve their quality of life.
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