Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that causes acid to rise from the stomach, back into the esophagus. The acidic content irritates the lining of the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and other symptoms associated with GERD. This condition is not specific for one type of individual. However, it is extremely common for pregnant women. In most cases, simple home remedies helps to alleviate the symptoms of GERD. This condition may persist for long periods of time and may require medical attention.
Normally, food passes from the esophagus to the stomach, and is controlled by a ring muscles present in the opening of esophagus that lead to the stomach. These sphincter muscles are known as lower esophageal sphincter muscles or LES. LES prevents the reflux of acid back into the esophagus. However, if the LES is weak or relaxes abnormally, contents of the stomach will find its way back into the esophagus, which can result in heartburn. The severity of this condition depends on the level of dysfunction of the muscles, and the quantity and quality of the liquid refluxed into the esophagus from the stomach. The return of acids and other contents from the stomach can cause inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, which can result complications, like bleeding, later on in life.
Some believe that the presence of the hiatal hernia, where the upper part of the stomach moves into the chest, increases the risk of stomach contents moving back into the esophagus. Some of the major contributors that increase the risk for this disease are specific diets and lifestyles. Some foods, like coffee, mint, and fatty foods trigger the rise of stomach contents into the esophagus. Cigarette smoking aids in the relaxation of the LES, affecting its functioning. Obesity and pregnancy also give the individual an enhanced risk of contracting GERD. Certain conditions, like delayed bowel movements, diabetes, and asthma are also known to increase an individual's chance of GERD. Certain medications increase heartburn and GERD, including:
- Certain sedatives
- Hypertension drugs
- Certain antidepressants
A burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn, is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is similar to the feeling having food lodged in your chest. Heartburn becomes progressively worse if you bend over or lay down. Some of the less frequent symptoms of this condition include: