Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

  • August 21, 2020
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Some people eat to live, while others live to eat. Ramen Sinha was a strict believer of the latter dictum. The 50 year-old marketing executive loved his food, and his loving wife loved to indulge him with hot, spicy and fried recipes. Nearly 30 years in sales also meant a lot of travelling, hence eating, tremendous job stress and hardly any exercise. And adding to it all was his smoking habit.  Obesity was the expected byproduct of a lifestyle he did not see anything wrong with, till he started experiencing frequent bouts of severe indigestion and acid reflux. Food became an enemy and regardless of what he ate, he began experiencing severe discomfort. On his brother’s advice he visited the doctor and was explained that he was suffering from GERD. The good news was that some simple lifestyle modifications would help him keep this problem under control.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is a digestive disorder that occurs when acidic juices from the stomach, food and fluids flows back into the tube connecting our mouth and stomach. It can affect people of all ages. GERD occurs when the sphincter at the bottom of the oesophagus becomes weak, and opens when it should not. People suffering from Asthma are at higher risk of developing GERD. Asthma makes lower oesophageal sphincter loose, allowing stomach contents to flow back, into the oesophagus. Acid reflux can also irritate the airways and lungs worsening asthma. It can thus turn asthma into a serious condition. GERD can generally be managed with lifestyle modifications and basic medications. But some people may require stronger medications or surgery to ease the symptoms.

GERD occurs more commonly in people who are:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Pregnant women
  • Taking medications for asthma, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, sedatives, and antidepressants
  • Smokers
  • Drink alcohol or coffee more than optimum quantities
  • Eat fatty or fried food
  • Suffer from Hiatal hernia where an opening in the diaphragm lets the top of the stomach move up into the chest. This lowers the pressure in the oesophageal sphincter and raises the risk of GERD


Common signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • Burning sensation in the chest/heartburn, worst at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Lump like sensation in the throat
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Laryngitis or hoarseness
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Cavities
  • Bad breath

GERD if not treated can lead to complications like:

  • Oesophagitis – It is an inflammation of the oesophagus.
  • Oesophageal stricture –The oesophagus becomes narrow, making it difficult to swallow
  • Barrett’s oesophagus – The cells lining the oesophagus can change into cells similar to the lining of the intestine and can develop into cancer
  • Respiratory problems – Stomach acid can be breathed into the lungs, which can lead to chest congestion, hoarseness, asthma, laryngitis, and pneumonia


To diagnose GERD several tests may be prescribed, including:

  • X-ray of the upper digestive system
  • Endoscopy (examines the inside of the esophagus)
  • Ambulatory acid (pH) test (monitors the amount of acid in the oesophagus)
  • Oesophageal impedance test (measures the movement of substances in the oesophagus)

Treatment & Management

If you have both GERD and asthma, managing the former will help you control your asthma symptoms.

Lifestyle changes to manage GERD include:

  • Elevate the head of the bed 6-8 inches
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Decrease alcohol intake
  • Limit meal size, avoid heavy meals and eat slowly
  • Do not lie down immediately after eating
  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger reflux like fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and caffeine.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing

Your Doctor may also recommend medications to treat reflux or relieve symptoms. Over-the-counter antacids and H2 blockers may help decrease the effects of stomach acid. Proton pump inhibitors may be effective in blocking acid production.

In severe and medication intolerant cases, surgery may be recommended. Surgical treatments for the prevention of GERD may include:

  • Fundoplication – Here the surgeon sews the top of the stomach around the oesophagus which helps to add pressure to the lower end of the oesophagus to reduce reflux.
  • Endoscopic procedures- sphincter muscle is tightened with the help of stitches which help to tighten the sphincter muscle.

Thus, if you are suffering from frequent acidic taste in the mouth during burping or find difficulty in breathing due to this, contact your nearest doctor and get immediate treatment.

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