Latest ways of treating GERD

Latest ways of treating GERD

There have been great advancements in the treatment of digestive disorders, none more so than in treating GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Digestive disorders cover a wide variety of problems in various areas including stomach disorders, gallbladder, small intestine, large intestine, bile ducts and colon. However the one we are particularly interested in affects the gastrointestinal tract and includes the esophagus. Acid reflux disease is growing problem and a lot can be contributed to the lifestyles we now have.

Digestive disorders vary in severity from mild annoyances like the occasional bout of heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, sour stomach, and occasional sickness. More severe conditions include Crohns disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) stomach ulcers, ulcerated colon (colitis), and GERD (acid reflux disease). There are of course very serious conditions like various cancers and perforated ulcers which can be life threatening and treating GERD is imperative.

In the United States alone about 95 million people suffer from GERD. This figure is increasing and is endemic to the way we live, eat, and the stress of everyday living. We have to be effectively treating GERD in a safe and proper manner. It is important that medical advice is taken and adhered too before GERD becomes a serious disease.

There are four main ways for treating GERD which include medication, surgery, endoscopic procedures and lifestyle changes which may include natural remedies. It is important to treat GERD as left untreated serious complications can arise including esophageal ulcers where we have defects in the esophageal lining (mucosal) which will not heal. Esophageal strictures may also occur. Barrett’s esophagus is another major problem where the cells lining the esophagael mucosa change and are pre cancerous. Then there is the problem of esophageal cancer which may also occur.

It was always recommended by doctors that lifestyle changes where required as the first line of defence to treat GERD. These measures included dietary changes, elevating the head of the bed or lying in an inclined position with the upper torso raised. Other recommendations included avoiding certain foods like chocolate, tomatoes, spicy and fatty foods and many other items including avoiding alcohol. However new finding in "The Archives of Internal Medicine" (Volume 166, page 965) shows that NOT ALL of these changes are helpful in relieving GERD symptoms, and some may be unnecessarily restrictive.

This new research looked at the results of 100 studies of GERD including various lifestyle measures. And it was found that only elevating the head of the bed and dieting and loosing weight had any significant effect and clear benefits. It also found little evidence that avoiding the so called GERD triggers like fatty foods, alcohol, carbonated beverages, caffeine, and mint, chocolate, spicy foods, citrus, had any affect. The same was true for avoiding food late at night and sleeping on your left side. The report did say that there was evidence that these substances can set off GERD but lacked evidence that acid reflux symptoms can be stopped by avoiding these substances.

Different things trigger GERD in different people and if by eating certain foods or drinking certain beverages the symptoms of acid reflux got worse then it is probably best to avoid these items. Medication will help in the treatment of GERD but lifestyle changes should be tried first because although medicine will relieve acid reflux symptoms they are certainly not a cure and when you stop taking the medication then GERD will return.

Heartburn affects up to 10% of US adults every day and up to 44% have suffered monthly heartburn. However if you have persistent heartburn say more than a couple of time a week then you probably suffer from GERD. Nearly 50 million visits to doctors, emergency departments and outpatients where recorded for digestive disorders in 2001 alone. As we grow older digestive disorders usually become more frequent and most of them occur in people over 50 years of age.

Today cutting edge research is producing a deeper understanding of the causes of various digestive disorders which in turn leads to better and more targeted treatment. Keep up the lifestyle changes like stress reduction, weight loss, dietary changes, and increased exercise, as well as taking acid reflux medication to alleviate the symptoms of GERD. These changes will reduce the amount of heartburn symptoms and so reduce the amount of acid entering the esophagus.

The encouraging news is that lifestyle changes, including dietary changes, increased exercise, weight loss, and stress reduction, and/or appropriate medication, can alleviate—and in many cases completely eliminate—the symptoms associated with many of these digestive disorders. It is important to not rely on self diagnosis and to seek appropriate medical advice for treating GERD .