Many people suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD is a digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter or the muscle shaped like a ring that is between the esophagus and the stomach. GERD includes severe heartburn or acid indigestion, which both can be very uncomfortable and necessitates the need to visit a gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, NY.
What Exactly is GERD?
GERD occurs when food is swallowed and it is allowed to come back up into the esophagus instead of staying in the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter should open to let food pass from the esophagus to the stomach and then close so that the food stays in the stomach as it should. GERD is characterized by the muscle weakening and not closing fully which can allow stomach contents including stomach acid to rise back into the esophagus and throat. Severe cases can include food returning to the mouth and vomiting.
What are the Symptoms of GERD?
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn or acid indigestion. It usually feels like a chest pain that is burning starting behind the breastbone and moving upwards to the neck and throat. Some say it feels like the food is coming into the mouth with an acidic or bitter taste. The burning pressure and pain can last as long as 2 hours and it is often worse after eating. When this occurs, the symptoms become worse when bending over or lying down. Many people with slight cases of GERD are able to stand up or take an antacid to clear all the acid out of the esophagus, whether it is an over the counter medication or a prescription medication. At times, GERD is so severe that many people confuse it with the pain of a heart attack or heart disease. GERD does not have an increase in pain associated with exercise, but heart symptoms are aggravated by activity. If you can’t tell the difference, you should immediately seek medical help.
What Factors can Cause GERD?
GERD can be a result of dietary and lifestyle choices. Some foods and beverages including peppermint, fired or fatty foods, chocolate, coffee or alcoholic beverages can trigger reflux and heartburn. Studies show that smoking cigarettes, obesity and pregnancy can play a role in contracting GERD.
What is the Treatment for GERD From a Gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, NY?
Most GERD patients first see their primary care physician and are then referred to a specialist or gastroenterologist. Most of the time treatment starts with dietary and lifestyle changes to decrease the amount of reflux so it reduces damages caused to the esophagus lining. You will likely be on a dietary change to eliminate any food or beverages that trigger your GERD symptoms. If your esophageal lining is already damaged, you might need to eliminate citrus fruits and juices, products with tomato in them and black pepper as these items will cause distress to the damaged areas.
You may be advised to decrease the portion sizes of your meals to control the symptoms. When you eat a meal at a minimum of 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, it will lessen the symptoms because your stomach acid will decrease before you lie down. You may also need to lose some weight to find relief if you are overweight.
You will likely also receive a prescription for an acid reducer to relive the symptoms of acid reflux.
What are the Methods of Diagnosis?
A gastroenterologist can perform an endoscopy to diagnose GERD. It is performed by placing a tiny lighted tube with a tiny video camera on the end into the esophagus. This will reveal any inflammation or irritation of the lining in the esophagus. If the findings in this test are abnormal or questionable, a tiny sample of tissue may be removed for examination.
If you experience heartburn very often or acid reflux, you should make an appointment to get to the root of the problem. Taking over the counter acid reducers for over 2 weeks can cause serious side effects. Your primary physician can guide you by giving you a referral to a gastroenterologist in your area.