When a little heartburn becomes a frequent issue, it may be time to look for more than a bigger bottle of antacids. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a very common disorder often associated with frequent heartburn and yet, it is more than just a little discomfort. GERD is when the contents of the stomach reflux, or back-flow into the esophagus, causing a burning feeling. Over time, the back-flow of the acidic contents from the stomach can damage the lining of the esophagus.
Heartburn is one of the more common symptoms, along with a bitter taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing and chest pain. While the occasional heartburn is normal, patients who experience it more than twice a week should be evaluated for GERD. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders GERD can affect 1 in 5.
While some adults may see GERD as a part of “growing old” or a simple diet issue it’s important to recognize the condition and treat it to prevent further damage. Left untreated, GERD symptoms can damage nearby organs, including the lungs and create breathing problems and throat issues as well.
Karen Wise, Director of Nursing for A Loving Company Home Health recently presented information about GERD to residents at a senior retirement community, “There were more people in attendance for this topic than any other education I’ve presented. The seniors were very appreciative of having this information. I was told by several residents, ‘My doctor told me I had this, but no one explained to me what it was or what to do about it,” she said. Wise has worked with ALC home health providers in order to ensure that the team is able to recognize and address GERD.
The good news is GERD, while chronic, can be managed under a doctor’s care and with proper treatment and changes in lifestyle. It’s important to seek a doctor’s evaluation for the proper diagnosis and to prevent complications. A doctor will evaluate for damage to the esophagus and offer a treatment to heal any inflammation or injury.
According to the AARP, diet changes can improve the life of someone coping with GERD. Cutting out the “bad foods” such as alcohol, chocolate, fatty meats, fried foods and coffee can help as these foods worsen acid reflux. But cutting out foods isn’t the end. It’s important to make an effort to eat the “good foods” According to the Dec. 2011 AARP article “10 Things You Should Know About Avoiding Acid Reflux” great foods for people with GERD include whole-grain bread, oatmeal, salad, bananas, melons, chicken (without the skin) fish, turkey, broccoli, green beans, couscous and brown rice. These foods are low in acidity. Try to add these into your daily diet.