Boy, what a day to revisit GERD, right? The day after Thanksgiving can translate into "need to know" for those who suffer from Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disease.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) becomes GERD when symptoms are consistently present for more than a couple of times a week, you should be assessed by a physician. The specialist in this field is called a gastroenterologist or the “GI doc.”
We have two tube-like structures that make their way through our neck. The passageway of food from the mouth to the stomach is a tube-like structure called the esophagus which is located behind the second structure, the trachea or breathing tube. When there is a problem with the esophagus, we experience symptoms of heartburn, sour taste, burning, soreness or hoarseness in the throat, nausea, regurgitation, problems swallowing, and sometimes even severe chest pain, but never assume your pain is GERD until you have been properly diagnosed with a test called an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), and heart problems have been ruled out. The symptoms of GERD and other problems such as esophageal spasm and hiatal hernia can mimic heart pain. Always err on the side of caution.
“Reflux” of stomach acid occurs because the gate (sphincter) at the lower end of the esophagus fails. Normally, this lower gate (LES) relaxes to let food pass into the stomach where special acids continue the digestive process. When the gate/sphincter, which is normally a tight muscle, becomes floppy or opens for no reason, acid and/or food regurgitate back into the esophagus and can make it all the way back to the mouth. This can cause permanent damage, because those acids belong in the stomach and can cause erosion when it strays from its home, the stomach. When GERD is present, unlike pleasant and nurturing Aunt Geordie, it is no fun. I imagine right now you at least have a roll of antacids in your purse or pocket.
On Sharecare.com (my other home), Dr Mehmet Oz has a short demonstrative video that shows you exactly what happened in GERD. You can watch it here.
Why does the sphincter stop working?
Sphincter dysfunction can be the result of heredity, life-style choices, or myofascial pain syndrome. Some patients are more susceptible to this, such as those with connective tissue disorder, diseases that cause restriction of the esophagus, hypermobility syndromes causing laxity, certain neurological conditions, and patients with muscle dysfunction.
What should we avoid?
We can only focus on what we can change, such as healthier lifestyle choices that affect or worsen GERD. We should not overeat; limit acid forming foods (fried, greasy, spicy or inflammation producing), drinks (such as caffeine and carbonated beverages) and alcohol. We should learn more about what supplements and medications might aggravate GERD; avoid smoking; and limit exercise that creates gravitational reflux, such as jumping, aggressive jogging or Yoga poses, such as the downward facing dog.
What can we do?
Sleeping with your upper body at a slight angle (head higher than your waist) can help prevent acid reflux by gravitational flow. (Try putting four inch blocks under the head of your bed frame.) Learn about and use an anti-inflammatory diet, eat small frequent meals, and exercise regularly by walking or doing T’ai Chi to improve digestions. There are also supplements, such as ginger and medications that can help treat GERD, so if you have symptoms, discuss them with your doctor.
If you have myofascial pain syndrome, you could be at an increased risk of having esophageal problems. According to Travell and Simons knotted up pieces of muscle fiber, called myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) can cause or contribute to GERD. Remember the sphincter is made of muscle and abdominal and chest muscles completely surround the digestive system. Trigger points in the area can also mimic symptoms of costochondritis (chest wall pain) and cause esophageal spasm which is diagnosed by symptoms and a test called an esophageal manometry. So, be sure to feel around your chest and abdomen for tender areas and see if you have unusual, painful lumps. You can learn more about trigger points and how to treat them here.
November is awareness month for Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disease
You might also be interested in another article Chest Wall Pain, Esophageal Spasm, and GERD by Celeste Cooper here.
Excerpt:Twisting of the upper body, slumping over a keyboard, not using proper body mechanics when doing activities, walking or sleeping; lifting too much weight, excessive reaching, a cold or cough, trauma, surgery, improper breathing techniques (chest or shallow breathing), overuse of unconditioned muscles, carrying a baby, backpack, or heavy purse, any activity that causes heavy breathing (exercise or anxiety), arm movement (such as swimming, tennis, racquet ball, golf, weight lifting, or bowling when you are not used to it), can be aggravating factors for the development of TrPs in the chest wall. Metabolic disorders and other conditions such as CFS and GWS can also make TrPs more difficult to treat.
Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by Celeste Cooper, RN and Jeff Miller, PhD Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all major online retail stores.
You can also find this information at https://www.thesethree.com/GERD.html#.UpFKMcTUBJM
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All answers and blogs are based on the author's opinions and writing and are not meant to replace medical advice.
Celeste Cooper is a retired RN, educator, fibromyalgia patient, and lead author of the Broken Body Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain devotional series (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD), and Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD) She is a fibromyalgia expert for Dr. Oz, et al., at Sharecare.com, here, and she advocates for all chronic pain patients as a participant in the Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy, here. You can read more educational information and about her books on her website, http://TheseThree.com