The Signs and Symptoms of GERD
Acid reflux, better known as GERD, strikes one in every five people. It is best known for its main symptom: acid indigestion and heartburn. Still do not know what GERD really is?
Acid reflux is caused when the digestive juices (or acid) in the stomach backs up into the esophagus where it can irritate and inflame throat tissues. This can cause a variety of signs and symptoms not to mention some serious health effects.
The most Common Signs and Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux shows itself in a variety of ways. The most common symptoms include:
- acid indigestion
- sore throat
- chronic cough
- stinging in the throat
- a bitter taste in the mouth
With such a varied set of symptoms, how can you know for sure if acid reflux is causing your distress? Well, only your doctor can tell you for sure. But if you experience any of these signs you may want to consider asking him to run a few tests to rule out GERD.
Although the sign of GERD is evident during the day, its symptoms do seem to be less noticeable during daylight hours. This is due to a variety of factors. For one, gravity helps to keep acid reflux under control while up and walking around during the day. Plus the human saliva contains a natural bicarbonate or antacid. Since most people tend to swallow their spit regularly though the day, this bicarbonate helps to soothe an acid in the stomach and keep symptoms from becoming hard to manage.
At night things change. When we go to bed, we tend to lay flat. This allows acid to reflux or regurgitate back up through the esophagus and into the back of the throat. In addition, lying like this also keeps us from swallowing as often thus giving our stomach less of the natural antacid it needs.
There are several things you can do to keep GERD symptoms under control at night:
- Sleep with your head elevated at least six inches from the rest of your body. This can be done by putting a wedge under your mattress or using a specially designed GERD pillow.
- Avoid eating at least three hours before retiring for the night. When you eat your stomach produces more acid. By giving your digestive tract a few hours to do its job, you can limit the amount of acid in the stomach at bedtime.
- Take an antacid before going to bed. This can help to neutralize any acids left in the stomach and keep them from regurgitating up the esophagus during the night.
It is true – we all tend to experience bouts of heartburn form time to time (especially after eating greasy or spicy foods). But if you notice yourself reaching for the TUMS bottle more than usual, then you might want to consider talking to your doctor about the possibility that your occasional heartburn has turned into something more serious like GERD.
A Chronic Cough
If you experience the onset of a chronic cough for no real reason (you don’t have cold or allergies) then consider that it could be the result of GERD. Many acid reflux patients experience a sudden cough from the irritation of the acid to the throat.
A Sore or Stinging Throat
It is completely normal to have a sore throat from a cold or allergies. But if you find that your throat hurts or stings for no apparent health reason, it may be because GERD is inflaming or irritating your throat. This can be a sign of real trouble as the acid being regurgitated begins to eat away at the lining of your esophagus.
Many people with GERD report feeling hoarse in the morning upon awakening. Even though it may go away after a few hours, this is a sign of GERD that should not be dismissed. The reason for the hoarseness: acid is refluxing into your throat during the night, causing severe irritation and tissue damage.
A Bitter Taste in the Mouth
Another common symptom of GERD – a bitter taste in the mouth. This too, is from the acid that is making its way back up into the back of your throat.
Even though you may not be waking during the night (although many acid reflux patients do), GERD is likely disrupting your sleep, making you feel tired throughout the day.
Who Suffers From Chronic Acid Reflux?
GERD can be experienced by anyone, at any age. Even infants can suffer from acid reflux of the sphincter muscle that connects their esophagus to their stomach. While many infants outgrow the disorder, others do not. Even adults who have never had acid reflux problems before can suddenly find themselves falling victim to the disease. Sometimes dietary changes are all that is needed to relieve its symptoms but oftentimes adult’s onset of GERD is a manifestation of muscle damage in the throat.
Who’s Most at Risk For GERD?
Although anyone can experience acid reflux at any point in their lives, women do tend to experience more of its symptoms. Here are some other factors that can put you at a higher risk of its effects:
- smoking – cigarettes smoke can weaken the lining of the throat and esophagus, making it even more dangerous to have that tissue irritating acid regurgitate into the throat
- fatty food consumption
- eating right before bedtime
While the signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can be quite varied from person to person, anyone who suspects that acid reflux is the cause for their discomfort should seek medical treatment. While not dangerous at first, acid reflux can become very serious if left untreated for a long period of time.