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GERD (acid the 1 last update 31 May 2020 reflux) facts

GERD (acid reflux) facts

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition in which the acidified liquid content of the stomach backs up into the esophagus.
  • The cause of GERD is complex and may involve multiple causes.
  • GERD may damage the lining of the esophagus, thereby causing inflammation (esophagitis), although this is uncommon.
  • The symptoms of uncomplicated GERD include:
  • Complications of GERD include:
    • ulcers and strictures of the esophagus,
    • Barrett''s Esophagus »

What is GERD or acid reflux?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates (backs up or refluxes) into the esophagus. The liquid can inflame and damage the lining (esophagitis) although visible signs of inflammation occur in a minority of patients. The regurgitated liquid usually contains acid and pepsin that are produced by the stomach. (Pepsin is an enzyme that begins the digestion of proteins in the stomach.) The refluxed liquid also may contain bile that has backed-up into the stomach from the duodenum. The first part of the small intestine attached to the stomach. Acid is believed to be the most injurious component of the refluxed liquid. Pepsin and bile also may injure the esophagus, but their role in the production of esophageal inflammation and damage is not as clear as the role of acid.

GERD is a chronic condition. Once it begins, it usually is life-long. If there is injury to the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis), this also is a chronic condition. Moreover, after the esophagus has healed with treatment and treatment is stopped, the injury will return in most patients within a few months. Once treatment for GERD is begun it will need to be continued indefinitely although. However, some patients with intermittent symptoms and no esophagitis can be treated the 1 last update 31 May 2020 only during symptomatic periods. GERD is a chronic condition. Once it begins, it usually is life-long. If there is injury to the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis), this also is a chronic condition. Moreover, after the esophagus has healed with treatment and treatment is stopped, the injury will return in most patients within a few months. Once treatment for GERD is begun it will need to be continued indefinitely although. However, some patients with intermittent symptoms and no esophagitis can be treated only during symptomatic periods.

In fact, reflux of the stomach''Smart Toilet''s more, frequent or prolonged regurgitation can lead to acid-induced erosions of the teeth.

Nausea

Nausea is uncommon in GERD. In some patients, however, it may be frequent or severe and may result in vomiting. In fact, in patients with unexplained nausea and/or vomiting, GERD is one of the first conditions to be considered. It is not clear why some patients with GERD develop mainly heartburn and others develop mainly nausea.

the 1 last update 31 May 2020

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What are the complications of GERD?

Ulcers

The liquid from the stomach that refluxes into the esophagus damages the cells lining the esophagus. The body responds in the way that it usually responds to damage, which is with inflammation (esophagitis). The purpose of inflammation is to neutralize the damaging agent and begin the process of healing. If the damage goes deeply into the esophagus, an ulcer forms. An ulcer is simply a break in the lining of the esophagus that occurs in an area of inflammation. Ulcers and the additional inflammation they provoke may erode into the esophageal blood vessels and give rise to bleeding into the esophagus.

Occasionally, the bleeding is severe and may require:

  • blood transfusions,
  • an endoscopic procedure (in which a tube is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus to visualize the site of bleeding and to stop the bleeding), or
  • surgical treatment.

Strictures

Ulcers of the esophagus heal with the formation of scars (fibrosis). Over time, the scar tissue shrinks and narrows the lumen (inner cavity) of the esophagus. This scarred narrowing is called a stricture. Swallowed food may get stuck in the esophagus once the narrowing becomes severe enough (usually when it restricts the esophageal lumen to a diameter of one centimeter). This situation may necessitate endoscopic removal of the stuck food. Then, to prevent food from sticking, the narrowing must be stretched (widened). Moreover, to prevent a recurrence of the stricture, reflux also must be prevented.

Barrett''s esophagus and occurs in approximately 10% of patients with GERD. The type of esophageal cancer associated with Barrett''s esophagus, but most do not.

Barrett''s esophagus can undergo periodic surveillance endoscopies with biopsies although there is not agreement as to which patients require surveillance. The purpose of surveillance is to detect progression from pre-cancer to more cancerous changes so that cancer-preventing treatment can be started. It also is believed that patients with Barrett''s General Health Newsletter

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How is GERD or acid reflux diagnosed and evaluated?

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There are a variety of procedures, tests, and evaluation of symptoms (for example, heartburn) to diagnose and evaluate patients with GERD.

Symptoms and procedures to diagnose GERD

Symptoms and response to treatment (therapeutic trial)

The usual way that GERD is by its characteristic symptom, heartburn. Heartburn is most frequently described as a sub-sternal (under the middle of the chest) burning that occurs after meals and often worsens when lying down. To confirm the diagnosis, physicians often treat patients with medications to suppress the production of acid by the stomach. If the heartburn then is diminished to a large extent, the diagnosis of GERD is considered confirmed. This approach of making a diagnosis on the basis of a response of the symptoms to treatment is commonly called a therapeutic trial.

There are problems with this approach For instance, patients who have conditions that can mimic GERD, specifically duodenal or gastric (stomach) ulcers, also can actually respond to such treatment. In this situation, if the physician assumes that the problem is GERD, the cause of the ulcer disease would be missed such as a type of infection called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS (for example, ibuprofen), can also cause ulcers and these conditions would be treated differently from GERD.

Moreover, as with any treatment, there is perhaps a 20% placebo effect, which means that 20% of patients will respond to a placebo (inactive) pill or, indeed, to any treatment. This means that 20% of patients who have causes of their symptoms other than GERD (or ulcers) will have a decrease in their symptoms after receiving the treatment for GERD. Thus, on the basis of their response to treatment (the therapeutic trial), these patients then will continue to be treated for GERD, even though they do not have GERD. What''s esophagus. Biopsies also may be obtained.

Finally, other common problems that may be causing GERD like symptoms can be diagnosed (for example ulcers, inflammation, or cancers of the stomach or duodenum) with EGD.

Biopsies

Biopsies of the esophagus that are obtained through the endoscope are not considered very useful for diagnosing GERD. They are useful, however, in diagnosing cancers or causes of esophageal inflammation other than acid reflux, particularly infections. Moreover, biopsies are the only means of diagnosing the cellular changes of Barrett''t have GERD (the placebo effect). Prior to endoscopic or surgical treatment, it is important to identify these patients because they are not likely to benefit from the treatments. The pH study can be used to identify these patients because they will have normal amounts of acid reflux.

A newer method for prolonged measurement (48 hours) of acid exposure in the esophagus utilizes a small, wireless capsule that is attached to the esophagus just above the LES. The capsule is passed to the lower esophagus by a tube inserted through either the mouth or the nose. After the capsule is attached to the esophagus, the tube is removed. The capsule measures the acid refluxing into the esophagus and transmits this information to a receiver that is worn at the waist. After the study, usually after 48 hours, the information from the receiver is downloaded into a computer and analyzed. The capsule falls off of the esophagus after 3-5 days and is passed in the stool. (The capsule is not reused.)

The advantage of the capsule over standard pH testing is that there is no discomfort from a catheter that passes through the throat and nose. Moreover, with the capsule, patients look normal (they don''s cells) are alternately poured (perfused) through the catheter and into the esophagus. The patient is unaware of which solution is being infused. If the perfusion with for 1 last update 31 May 2020 acid provokes the patient''s pain is caused by acid reflux.The advantage of the capsule over standard pH testing is that there is no discomfort from a catheter that passes through the throat and nose. Moreover, with the capsule, patients look normal (they don''s cells) are alternately poured (perfused) through the catheter and into the esophagus. The patient is unaware of which solution is being infused. If the perfusion with acid provokes the patient''s pain is caused by acid reflux.

The acid perfusion test, however, is used only rarely. A better test for correlating pain and acid reflux is a 24-hour esophageal pH or pH capsule study during which patients note when they are having pain. It then can be determined from the pH recording if there was an episode of acid reflux at the time of the pain. This is the preferable way of deciding if acid reflux is causing a patient''s feet at the head of the bed or, more conveniently, by sleeping with the upper body on a foam rubber wedge. These maneuvers raise the esophagus above the stomach and partially restore the effects of gravity. It is important that the upper body and not just the head be elevated. Elevating only the head does not raise the esophagus and fails to restore the effects of gravity.

Elevation of the upper body at night generally is recommended for all patients with GERD. Nevertheless, most patients with GERD have reflux only during the day and elevation at night is of little benefit for them. It is not possible to know for certain which patients will benefit from elevation at night unless acid testing clearly demonstrates night reflux. However, patients who have heartburn, regurgitation, or other symptoms of GERD at night are probably experiencing reflux at night and definitely should elevate their upper body when sleeping. Reflux also occurs less frequently when patients lie on their left rather than their right sides.

GERD diet

Several changes in eating habits can be beneficial in treating GERD. Reflux is worse following meals. This probably is so because the stomach is distended with food at that time and transient relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter are more frequent. Therefore, smaller and earlier evening meals may reduce the amount of reflux for two reasons. First, the smaller meal results in lesser distention of the stomach. Second, by bedtime, a smaller and earlier meal is more likely to have emptied from the stomach than is a larger one. As a result, reflux is less likely to occur when patients with GERD lie down to sleep.

Certain foods are known to reduce the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter and thereby promote for 1 last update 31 May 2020 reflux. These foods should be avoided and include:Certain foods are known to reduce the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter and thereby promote reflux. These foods should be avoided and include:

Fatty foods (which should be decreased) and smoking (which should be stopped) also reduce the pressure in the sphincter and promote reflux.

In addition, patients with GERD may find that other foods aggravate their symptoms. Examples are spicy or acid-containing foods, like citrus juices, carbonated beverages, and tomato juice. These foods should also be avoided for 1 last update 31 May 2020 if they provoke symptoms.In addition, patients with GERD may find that other foods aggravate their symptoms. Examples are spicy or acid-containing foods, like citrus juices, carbonated beverages, and tomato juice. These foods should also be avoided if they provoke symptoms.

One novel approach to the treatment of GERD is chewing gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of more bicarbonate-containing saliva and increases the rate of swallowing. After the saliva is swallowed, it neutralizes acid in the esophagus. In effect, chewing gum exaggerates one of the normal processes that neutralize acid in the esophagus. It is not clear, however, how effective chewing gum is in treating heartburn. Nevertheless, chewing gum after meals is certainly worth a try.

GERD (acid reflux) medications

There are a variety of over-the-counter (for example, antacids and foam barriers) and prescription medications (for example, proton pump inhibitors, histamine antagonists, and promotility drugs) for treating GERD.

Antacids for GERD

Despite the development of potent medications for the treatment of GERD, antacids remain a mainstay of treatment. Antacids neutralize the acid in the stomach so that there is no acid to reflux. The problem with antacids is that their action is brief. They are emptied from the empty stomach quickly, in less than an hour, and the acid then re-accumulates. The best way to take antacids, therefore, is approximately one hour after meals, which is just before the symptoms of reflux begin after a meal. Since the food from meals slows the emptying from the stomach, an antacid taken after a meal stays in the stomach longer and is effective longer. For the same reason, a second dose of antacids approximately two hours after a meal takes advantage of the continuing post-meal slower emptying of the stomach and replenishes the acid-neutralizing capacity within the stomach.

Heartburn Remedies Best Practices (πŸ”₯ Breakfast For) | Heartburn Remedies Heartburn Remedieshow to Heartburn Remedies for Antacids may be aluminum, magnesium, or calcium based. Calcium-based antacids (usually calcium carbonate), unlike other antacids, stimulate the release of gastrin from the stomach and duodenum. Gastrin is the hormone that is primarily responsible for the stimulation of acid secretion by the stomach. Therefore, the secretion of acid rebounds after the direct acid-neutralizing effect of the calcium carbonate is exhausted. The rebound is due to the release of gastrin, which results in an overproduction of acid. Theoretically at least, this increased acid is not good for GERD.

Acid rebound, however, has not been shown to be clinically important. That is, treatment with calcium carbonate has not been shown to be less effective or safe than treatment with antacids not containing calcium carbonate. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of acid rebound is theoretically harmful. In practice, therefore, calcium-containing antacids such as Tums and Rolaids are not recommended for frequent use. The occasional use of these calcium carbonate-containing antacids, however, is not believed to be harmful. The advantages of calcium carbonate-containing antacids are their low cost, the calcium they add to the diet, and their convenience as compared to liquids.

Aluminum-containing antacids have a tendency to cause constipation, while magnesium-containing antacids tend to cause diarrhea. If diarrhea or constipation becomes a problem, it may be necessary to switch antacids, or alternatively, use antacids containing both aluminum and magnesium.

Histamine antagonists

Although antacids can neutralize acid, they do so for only a short period of time. For substantial for 1 last update 31 May 2020 neutralization of acid throughout the day, antacids would need to be given frequently, at least every hour.Although antacids can neutralize acid, they do so for only a short period of time. For substantial neutralization of acid throughout the day, antacids would need to be given frequently, at least every hour.

The first medication developed for more effective and convenient treatment of acid-related diseases, including GERD, was a histamine antagonist, specifically cimetidine (Tagamet). Histamine is an important chemical because it stimulates acid production by the stomach. Released within the wall of the stomach, histamine attaches to receptors (binders) on the stomach''s esophagus.

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Proton pump inhibitors

Heartburn Remedies GERD Diet (β˜‘ Treat GERD) | Heartburn Remedies 23+ Home Remedieshow to Heartburn Remedies for The second type of drug developed specifically for acid-related diseases, such as GERD, was a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), specifically, omeprazole (Prilosec). A PPI blocks the secretion of acid into the stomach by the acid-secreting cells. The advantage of a PPI over an H2 antagonist is that the PPI shuts off acid production more completely and for a longer period of time. Not only is the PPI good for treating the symptom of heartburn, but it also is good for protecting the esophagus from acid so that esophageal inflammation can heal.

PPIs are used when H2 antagonists do not relieve symptoms adequately or when complications of GERD such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett''s esophagus are found, treatment with PPIs also is more appropriate. However, the adequacy of the PPI treatment probably should be evaluated with a 24-hour pH study during treatment with the PPI. (With PPIs, although the amount of acid reflux may be reduced enough to control symptoms, it may still be abnormally high. Therefore, judging the adequacy of suppression of acid reflux by only the response of symptoms to treatment is not satisfactory.) Strictures may also need to be treated by endoscopic dilatation (widening) of the esophageal narrowing. With Barrett''s esophagus should have surgery. This recommendation is based on the belief that surgery is more effective than endoscopic surveillance or ablation of the abnormal tissue followed by treatment with acid-suppressing drugs in preventing both the reflux and the cancerous changes in the esophagus. There are no studies, however, demonstrating the superiority of surgery over drugs or ablation for the treatment of GERD and its complications. Moreover, the effectiveness of drug treatment can be monitored with 24 hour pH testing.

What are the unresolved issues in GERD (acid reflux)?

Mechanism of heartburn and damage

One unresolved issue in GERD is the inconsistent relationships among acid reflux, heartburn, and damage to the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis and the complications).

  1. Why do only a few of the many episodes of acid reflux that occur in a patient with GERD cause heartburn?
  2. Why do some patients with mildly increased acid reflux develop heartburn, while other patients with the same amount of acid reflux do not?
  3. Why does heartburn usually occur in an esophagus that has no visible damage?
  4. Why is it that some patients with more damage to the esophagus have less heartburn than patients with no damage?
  5. Is heartburn not related to inflammation but rather to absorption of acid across the lining of the esophagus through widened spaces between the lining cells?

Clearly, we have much to learn about the relationship between acid reflux and esophageal damage, and about the processes (mechanisms) responsible for heartburn. This issue is of more than passing interest. Knowledge of the mechanisms that produce heartburn and esophageal damage raises the possibility of new treatments that would target processes other than acid reflux.

One of the more interesting theories that has been proposed to answer some of these questions involves the reason for pain when acid refluxes. It often is assumed that the pain is caused by irritating acid contacting an inflamed esophageal lining. But the esophageal lining usually is not inflamed. It is possible therefore, that the acid is stimulating the pain nerves within the esophageal wall just beneath the lining. Although this may be the case, a second explanation is supported by the work of one group of scientists. These scientists find that heartburn provoked by acid in the esophagus is associated with contraction of the muscle in the lower esophagus. Perhaps it is the contraction of the muscle that somehow leads to the pain. It also is possible, however, that the contraction is an epiphenomenon, that is, refluxed acid stimulates pain nerves and causes the muscle to contract, but it is not the contraction that causes the pain. More studies will be necessary before the exact mechanism(s) that causes heartburn is clear.

Importance of non-acidic reflux

There are potentially injurious agents that can be refluxed other than acid, for example, bile. Until recently it has been impossible or difficult to accurately identify non-acid reflux and, therefore, to study whether or not non-acid reflux is injurious or can cause symptoms.

A new technology allows the accurate determination of non-acid reflux. This technology uses the measurement of impedance changes within the esophagus to identify reflux of liquid, be it acid or non-acid. By combining measurement of impedance and pH it is possible to identify reflux and to tell if the reflux is acid or non-acid. It is too early to know how important non-acid reflux is in causing esophageal damage, symptoms, or complications, but there is little doubt that this new technology will be able to resolve the issues surrounding non-acid reflux.

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References
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCES:

MedscapeReference.com. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.

National Institutes of Health. Gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Previous contributing medical editors: Dennis Lee, MD and Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD
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