What is Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the result of a disordered valve mechanism between the esophagus (swallowing tube) and the stomach. The valve, or lower esophageal sphincter (LES), opens during swallowing to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes to prevent food and stomach secretions from moving backward into the esophagus. When the LES fails to close correctly, the stomach contents—which are acidic and contain digestive secretions—can flow back into the esophagus. This reverse flow (reflux) of food, acids and the digestive enzyme pepsin, can cause damage to the esophageal lining and resulting heartburn.
GERD is a common disorder that has a significant impact on the community. In Canada, people suffering from GERD symptoms are absent from work 16% of each year, representing $21 billion in costs or 1.7 billion hours of lost productivity annually. On average, five million Canadians experience heartburn and/or acid regurgitation at least once each week. Reflux is common during pregnancy and one-quarter of pregnant women experience daily heartburn. Recent studies show that GERD in infants and children occurs more frequently than previously thought and may produce repeated vomiting, failure to grow, coughing and other respiratory problems.
How can I prevent Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
Your doctor will usually recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce or relieve GERD symptoms and help reduce acid reflux and potential damage to the lining of your esophagus. Suggested changes may include:
- Avoid food and beverages known to lower LES pressure including chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, coffee and alcohol
- Avoid spicy and acid-containing foods that can irritate the esophageal lining
- Eat small, frequent meals, rather than large meals
- Have nothing to eat and little or nothing to drink for 3 to 4 hours before going to bed
- Raise the head of the bed or elevate the upper body with a foam wedge
- Achieve and maintain an ideal body weight
- Stop smoking
These resources were made possible through a partnership between Medtronic and CDHF