After Saturday night parties, you would have suffered, at some time or the other, from that severe burning sensation just below the chest bone with the sour bile rising up your throat, causing you to throw everything up, isn’t it?
But what if this is not a one-off experience and is causing you discomfort almost every other day? Your doctor advises you to go for a gastroscopic examination and records the damage done by the stomach acid to the wall of the esophagus, thereby causing the burning sensation. Such a disorder is termed as Gastro- Esophageal Reflux Disease often referred to as GERD.
It is a chronic disease marked by stomach acid or bile flowing into the food pipe and irritating its lining. Acid reflux and heartburn more than twice a week may indicate GERD.
How is GERD caused?
There is a valve at the end of your food pipe (esophagus) where it meets (opens into) the stomach. This valve is called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), and in normal conditions, it allows and controls one-way movement of food from the esophagus into the stomach and stops it from coming back. GERD is caused by a weak LES that doesn’t relax appropriately, thereby allowing the stomach’s contents to flow back into the esophagus. Regurgitation of food or sour acids from the stomach and a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) are its chief complaints.
Why should you seek medical advice?
This constant backwash of acids can damage the esophageal lining, causing complications such as bleeding, esophageal narrowing or Barrett’s esophagus (a pre-cancerous condition). It is, therefore, advisable to seek medical intervention as early as possible.
Signs and symptoms:
- Heartburn that sometimes spreads to the neck and throat
- Sour taste in the mouth in some cases
- Regurgitation of food
- Acid reflux
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Chest pain
- Dry cough
- Hoarse throat
- Choking or sensation of a lump in the throat
- Burning, pressure or pain of heartburn can last as long as 2 hours and is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending can also result in heartburn.
Many feel relieved when they stand upright or after taking antacids. Pregnancy, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, asthma, diabetes, obesity may worsen the symptoms of GERD.
Foods that are beneficial to a GERD patient:
- Barley, wheat, red rice that is a year or more old
- Boiled water
- Raw sugar in small quantities
- Pointed gourd, bitter gourd, old ash gourd
Foods those are not good for GERD:
- Food items prepared with sesame
- Black gram or food prepared from black gram
- Goat milk
- Fermented liquids
- Foods which are heavy to digest
- Salt rich foods (like chips), sour foods, spicy foods, curd/ yogurt, alcohol
General measures and home remedies which are beneficial:
- Fasting for a day or half a day every week. Make sure to not overdo it. Drink boiled water (once cooled) and eat sweet fruits while fasting.
- Take 2-3 cardamom and crush them. Boil them in ¼ liter of water. Filter them out using a sieve and drink warm.
- Take 5-6 tulsi leaves (basil), crush them and boil them in 250 ml of water on mild flame for 10-15 minutes. Filter and drink warm.
- Chew 1 teaspoon of lightly roasted fennel seeds, along with 1 teaspoon of raw sugar every day after meals.
- Chew a clove, once or twice daily. A pinch of clove mixed in honey also gives relief.
- Drink fat-free chilled milk. (Caution –Does not apply if you are allergic to milk or have an experience of milk worsening your acid reflux, especially if also happen to be a Pitta person)
- Drink two teaspoons of aloe vera juice or gel before having your meals
- Eat one banana daily after adding a little sugar or honey and a pinch of cinnamon powder to it.
- Before going to bed, take one spoon of honey or a glass of honey water. Prefer organic honey. It soothes the stomach and adjusts the body’s pH, neutralizing the stomach acids.
- Take 1/2 tsp licorice powder with 1 teaspoon of honey for 1- 2 weeks. It protects the stomach from acids by neutralizing them and helps the body fight stomach and esophageal erosions. To be avoided by people with constantly high blood pressures.
- Quit alcohol and smoking.
- Sleep with the head propped to minimize acid reflux at night.
- Eat small meals in a calm atmosphere, chewing the food properly.
- Modern day vices namely hurry, worry and curry should be avoided.
- Try yoga, meditation etc. to calm your mind.
Wishing you good health and happiness!!