GERD And Heartburn – What Is The Difference?

OTC remedies may offer only temporary relief for GERD symptoms and sometimes surgery may even be necessary to reduce symptoms. The symptoms are often confused with heartburn, so let's first determine what they both are.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach, known as the esophagus. Occasional heartburn is common and affects about 60 million people in the U.S.A. alone. However, when it occurs more than once a week, and does not stop with use of over-the-counter medications, doctors call it GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The Story Behind GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is not a disease as many believe. It is rather a symptom of a greater disease called Autoimmunity that renders Digestive Dysfunction. Autoimmunity can be responsible for multiple symptoms that occur throughout the entire body as well.

The presence of this Autoimmunity/Digestive Dysfunction causes GERD, and numerous other symptoms and conditions throughout the body. What all this means is that undigested food particles get into the colon where they do not belong. This leads to inflammation and a host of other undesirable conditions, such as colon cancer.

When the body detects the presence of these undigested particles, it sends signals to the rest of the tract to double up digestion and break down the food. Because of the digestive dysfunction present in the small intestinal tract, the stomach then becomes saddled with the task of carrying out the digestion and so it produces excess acid to break down the food.

The excess acid produced by the stomach has nowhere to go but to migrate up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. When this process becomes rampant, it causes irritation of esophagus and subsequently leads to erosion of the lining. The result? GERD.

What Are The Symptoms?

Heartburn and GERD have several different symptoms. Not all GERD sufferers experience the usual burning in the chest. This type of acid reflux is a much serious condition than heartburn. In fact it can become a life-threatening ailment. The backwash of the acid in the esophagus irritates the lining of the esophagus. When this process becomes continuous, the acid can erode the lining of the esophagus, a problem that can advance from mere irritation to esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer.

Unlike traditional heartburn, symptoms occur more often when you’re upright rather than lying down. Some common symptoms include the feeling of a lump in your throat, burning sensation in your mouth, neck pain, constant coughing, a feeling that you’re choking, trouble swallowing, bad breath and sore throat.

Acid-suppressing medication such as proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium or Prevacid may be prescribed by your doctor to treat this condition. These medications are effective for temporary relieve and have to be taken on a daily basis.

Drawbacks Of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

An analysis done on 145,000 by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that people who took PPI daily for a year had 21% higher risk of hip fracture than people not taking the drug. The risk increased to 41% higher after two years of taking the drugs, 54% higher after three years of use and 59% after four years of use. It is obvious from this analysis that long term use adds incremental risk to your bones.

PPIs can also double your risk of developing colds and flu because of its ability to remove all acid from your stomach, which results to little or no acid left in the stomach to kill bacteria and viruses. The viruses and bacteria therefore begin to migrate to the respiratory tract and cause colds and flu, even pneumonia.

Treating GERD Without Drugs

The conclusion is that if you can control acid reflus, you can can stop this painful condition as well. Here is a quick rundown of some steps you can take to prevent this ailment.

* Lose weight, if you are overweight

* Stop smoking

* Stop or cut down on drinking

* Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes

* Eat smaller meals

* Avoid spicy foods and caffeinated beverages

* Don’t mix food and water when eating. Allow at least an hour between eating and drinking to prevent bloating

* Plan to eat at least four hours before going to bed

* Elevate the head of your bed by placing blocks under the bedposts.

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Chronic GERD can lead to esophageal bleeding. Don't just take antacids and ignore the symptoms.