From the Parish Nurse
I had been debating about what topic to pick for this month’s newsletter. After watching the last presidential debate, then scouring the globe for a different country I can move to (I’m not thrilled with either candidate), and popping a bunch of TUMS, I decided to write about GERD.
Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic disease in which stomach acid flows or bubbles back up into the esophagus. Acid is not something that the esophagus was created to withstand. If this problem persists, the acid can eat away at the esophageal lining and caused problems, some minor and others very serious.
When you eat and swallow, food moves through your esophagus via bands of contracting muscles. It then goes through a valve leading into your stomach. The valve loosens to let the food through and then closes tightly to prevent backflow. In GERD this valve does not do its job in tightening back up, and allows food and acid to backflow into the esophagus. The acid irritates the esophageal lining. This may cause a sensation of heartburn or even mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Over time the acid reflux can cause bleeding ulcers, scar tissue (which narrows the esophageal passage and can damage muscle movement needed to move food through), and Barrett’s esophagus (precancerous changes in the esophageal lining).
Mayo Clinic lists some of the most common signs and symptoms of GERD: heartburn, sometimes spreading to your throat, along with a sour taste in your mouth, chest pain difficulty swallowing, dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat, acid reflux, and sensation of a lump in your throat.
Some lifestyle tips from Harvard Health to help control symptoms of GERD include; don’t smoke, avoid foods that trigger GERD (I’ll have the handout available), avoid large meals and try to be up moving around for at least 30 minutes after eating, use gravity to keep the acid down in your stomach at night (prop your head up with pillows), chew gum which will produce acid-neutralizing saliva, lose weight (if you are overweight), and avoid tight belts and waistbands.
There are a number of effective drugs a doctor can prescribe and there are surgeries if symptoms are severe. I will have the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health articles available which contain a more in depth description of the disease and treatments,
God Bless and Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving