Managing GERD and acid reflux
Picture this: You ate a hot, cheesy slice of pizza for dinner. 20 minutes later, you feel a burning sensation in your chest. You begin to taste something bitter at the back of your throat. You sit there in discomfort, but eventually, it passes.
These are some of the sensations associated with acid reflux. Occasional acid reflux that takes place 1-2 times per week is relatively normal, but more frequent acid reflux may be Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
GERD is quite common, affecting 1 in 6 adult Canadians. It can be an uncomfortable experience. If left untreated for a long time, it can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
If you think that you may suffer from GERD, being informed about its anatomy, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment can help you manage your symptoms, increase your comfort, and prevent more dangerous conditions down the road. Keep reading to learn more!
After you swallow your food, it travels down a tube called your esophagus. Then, it enters your stomach, where acid-based digestion takes place. Between your esophagus and stomach, there is a little gate called a sphincter, which opens to let food into your stomach and closes to prevent acid from leaking into your esophagus.
Certain foods, such as coffee and chocolate, can cause acid reflux by loosening the sphincter. This means that the acid digesting food in your stomach can seep into your esophagus–this is called “acid reflux”.
When stomach acid travels up your esophagus, it can cause symptoms such as:
You may not necessarily experience tell-tale GERD symptoms such as the ones listed above. There is a kind of acid reflux called “silent reflux”, which does not feel like acid reflux in the moment, but it causes downstream symptoms such as:
34-41% of people with GERD experience symptoms for over 10 years before being diagnosed. If you suspect that you may have GERD, try to consult a healthcare provider sooner rather than later. This can help symptom management.
When you consult a healthcare provider for GERD, they may review your personal medical history and ask more about your symptoms. If they are uncertain as to whether you have GERD, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist, who will conduct more diagnostic tests.
Every GERD experience is unique, as each person has a distinct set of acid reflux triggers and helpful treatments. Generally, your healthcare provider may recommend that you start with some lifestyle changes. If those are not completely effective, then you may be prescribed medications or more intensive treatment. It can take some experimentation, but know that you are not alone in your journey.
If you are experiencing GERD-like symptoms, try not to ignore them. Visit a healthcare provider as early as you can, because chronic untreated acid reflux can have difficult consequences. You deserve to feel well and comfortable.
Consider booking an appointment with one of the Student Wellness Centre’s medical staff, who can support you with the diagnostic and treatment process. Visit this page to learn more.
By: Shraddha Mishra