Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease


Principal Proposed Natural Treatments

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In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid from the stomach splashes upward, or “refluxes,” and burns the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach). Normally, a type of sphincter muscle keeps the upper part of the stomach closed, but various factors may loosen it, allowing acid to rise more easily. The result is pain in the chest (heartburn). GERD is generally made worse by lying down because gravity no longer restrains the upward movement of stomach contents. In infants, the major issue with GERD is spitting up of food or milk rather than pain. Certain foods may worsen GERD, including alcohol, carbonated beverages, caffeine, chocolate, citrus juices, milk, and peppermint. Cigarette smoking may also increase symptoms. Contrary to earlier beliefs, it does not appear that people with GERD need to cut down on fat intake to help control the disease. 1,2Pregnant women frequently develop GERD due to changes in muscle tone. The connection between obesity and GERD remains unclear. Treatment for GERD involves elevating the head of the bed and using medications that reduce the acidity of the stomach. In general, more powerful antacid medications are required for GERD than for ulcers or gastritis . Drugs in the proton pump category are most effective. Surgery may be recommended in certain cases. If left untreated, GERD causes precancerous alterations in the lower part of the esophagus (a condition called Barrett’s esophagus), which can develop into esophageal cancer. For this reason, people with GERD are often given a test to evaluate the condition of the esophagus.

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