You may have experienced these digestive disorders before. You may be thinking, “Aren’t GERD, acid reflux & heartburn the same thing?”. Most people use the terms interchangeably, and with good reason. These 3 terms are very closely related, but have differences that you should watch out for. First, let’s take a look at these 3 disorders and what they encompass.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, happens when your stomach acid frequently flows back into your oesophagus (the tube that connects your stomach to your mouth). This backwash is called the acid reflux (more on that later). Acid reflux is a somewhat common occurrence in many people, so don’t worry.
GERD covers all forms of acid reflux. There is a mild version that happens twice a week. However, there are also the moderate and severe versions that happen once a week.
So, how can you tell if you have it? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Heartburn (more on that later) just after eating that can worsen at night
- Chest pain
- Food becomes hard to swallow
- Throwing up food or sour liquid
- Feeling a lump in your throat
So what causes acid reflux? There are actually many reasons. One common cause is a hiatal hernia, a stomach abnormality that can happen to any age group. When your upper stomach and LES move above your diaphragm, it becomes easier for the stomach acid to move up into your oesophagus.
Another common cause is smoking. Smoking can cause a number of issues that can cause acid reflux. This includes an increased stomach acid secretion, impaired muscle reflexes in your throat, damaged mucus membranes, a reduced LES muscle function and reduced salivation. So if you notice this foul liquid, maybe lay off the cigarettes for a while.
There are also other causes of this disorder. Being overweight or obese also puts you at risk. Bad habits such as snacking before going to bed, lying down or bending over right after a heavy meal also contribute to acid reflux. Taking muscle relaxers, aspirin or ibuprofen, along with certain blood pressure medicine also increases the risk of acid reflux, so watch out!
How To Prevent Acid Reflux
The main way to prevent acid reflux (and by extension, GERD) is by making tweaks to your diet. Cut out food that weakens your lower oesophagal sphincter, or LES (it surrounds the lower part of your oesophagus). The acid reflux foods to avoid include chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, and alcohol. There are also several foods that may or may not cause symptoms, such as citrus fruits/juices, tomato products and peppers. These should be avoided if you start showing symptoms.
Since being overweight causes a higher risk for GERD, losing weight is a very simple solution to preventing it.
Foods To Help Acid Reflux
- Vegetables can help reduce stomach acid, while also being naturally good for you.
- Lean meats and egg whites are also helpful due to being low-fat, and are excellent for general health.
- Fruits that do not contain citrus, such as apples and bananas, are less likely to cause your acid reflux to worsen.
- High-fibre foods such as oatmeal, wholegrain bread and wholegrain rice. These foods can absorb stomach acid.
- Ginger is a natural treatment for gastrointestinal problems.
- Healthy Fats such as various nuts and avocado.
- Herbal teas such as Chamomile can also soothe your stomach issues.
Heartburn is very similar to GERD and is occasionally a symptom of indigestion. It is also caused by stomach acid seeping into your oesophagus, often due to excess food, obesity and constipation. However, unlike GERD, which is long-term, heartburn is usually a short-term issue. Usually, this short-term pain is nothing to worry about and will subside after a while. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, and the duration varies from person to person. The solutions are the same as those to reduce acid reflux.
Indigestion is the discomfort you feel in your upper abdomen and chest. It is a common issue, caused by consuming too much food or doing it too quickly. It is also caused by consuming too much caffeine, fatty and spicy foods, alcohol and excessive smoking. However, there are also other health-related causes, such as inflammation of various organs and ulcers.
Indigestion makes movement difficult for everyone. Instead of going to the store for an indigestion remedy, here are several home remedies for indigestion instead. Do consult a doctor if these do not work or if you feel worse afterwards.
- Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, which doubles as an antacid that neutralises stomach acid and breaks it down.
- Apple cider vinegar contains minerals that assist in the digestive process and breaks down fat with its acidic nature.
- Coriander seeds are an Indian dish favourite that have antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, which stimulate your digestive process.
By Muhd Farhan