A common malady among millenials in Indonesia, Gerd irritates the throat and causes painful heartburn, leading to various health conditions. Read on to learn more about the disease and how to treat it.
GERD. You may have heard friends or family mention this one. Or perhaps you’re dealing with it yourself. As it happens, this condition has become one of the most talked-about health issues in the past decade, particularly among Indonesian millennials. A study conducted by Suherman et al. in 2021 shows that the prevalence of GERD in Indonesia has reached 27.4 percent, with 29.26 percent of those diagnosed with the condition being individuals between 26 to 35 years old. Whether you’ve experienced GERD—and know how painful it is—or not, it pays to learn at least a bit about the disease, its symptoms and how it’s treated. So, read on…
WHAT IS GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, popularly known as GERD, is a condition where our stomach acids frequently flow up to the esophagus, the tube that connects our mouth to our stomach. With a pH of one to three, the acid can cause irritation on the tube’s lining, leading to inflammation, especially when it’s constantly happening.
What causes the acid to travel up to the throat? The lower part of the tube has a ring-shaped muscle called the esophageal sphincter. This muscle will relax when we swallow to allow food and liquids to each the stomach. However, when the sphincter weakens or relaxes improperly, stomach acid can rise to the esophagus, irritating its lining.
Another important element to the equation is frequency. In an article for the online platform Halodoc, Dr. Rizal Fadli notes that an individual with GERD may experience a “light” reflux at least twice a week. He also states that more severe reflux episodes can happen once a week. Of course, this will vary from individual to individual.
In short, GERD is more than just nausea and vomiting. The Mayo Clinic lists heartburn as one of the most prominent symptoms of the disease. Often mistaken for a heart attack, this severe burning sensation in the chest usually occurs after eating. It may worsen at night or while you are lying down.
Another common symptom of the condition is regurgitation of stomach content. The acid that travels back up to our throat might carry food and liquids from our stomach. It makes us nauseous and can also lead to a sour taste in the mouth and bad breath. Sufferers may also experience dysphagia or trouble swallowing food or drinks.
If you think that’s all the symptoms you may experience, here comes the bad news: GERD can worsen asthma, either triggering new cases or causing existing problems to escalate. In addition to this, according to England’s National Health Service, GERD can cause an episode of stubborn coughing or hiccups. You may also experience a change in your voice as the reflux may trigger inflammation of your vocal cords.
When discussing a disease, risk factors are always an important element. Dr. Yuliani Herawati from the Academic Hospital of Gajah Mada University, in an article for Radio Edukasi, states that people with diabetes mellitus and hiatal hernia are at a higher risk of GERD. Obese and pregnant individuals as well as smokers also face the same risk.
Certain types of food, unsurprisingly, is another common culprit. Franciscan Health mentions that fatty, spicy and fried dishes may trigger or worsen GERD symptoms. Coffee, alcoholic and carbonated drinks are also known triggers. And bad news for those with a sweet tooth: chocolate is yet another known trigger.
Last but not least, stress and anxiety can also trigger the disease. Toni Golen of the Editorial Advisory Board Member of Harvard Health Publishing and Hope Ricciotti, Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch both noted that emotional stress may encourage stomach acid production, potentially aggravating GERD.
TREATING THE FLUX
Dealing with GERD starts with avoiding the risk factors. The National Health Service England lists several lifestyle changes that can prevent reflux from ever happening, mainly by reducing or avoiding the consumption of foods and drinks that trigger the condition. Instead of “eating big,” enjoy smaller meals more frequently. Night-time snacks are great, but try not to eat three or four hours before bed.
Giving up smoking and losing excess weight are also highly recommended. Furthermore, those struggling with stress might want to look into developing new relaxation strategies. Or perhaps try a bit of DIY. Raising the head end of your bed by 10-20 centimeters (or simply stacking some extra pillows) so stomach acid cannot flow back to your throat can be surprisingly helpful. Last but not least, a wide array of medications is also available.
GERD causes inconvenience and pain, from severe heartburn to lousy breath and asthma. The condition also affects organs connected or situated close to the esophagus. Dealing with the condition, however, can be pretty straightforward. By taking proper medications and making lifestyle changes, the condition can be prevented, and the flux can be stopped for good.
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