Reducing your risk of developing GERD
Sometimes after a heavy meal, a burning sensation is felt near the heart which is commonly called heartburn. Although the name implies that the heart is involved, the sensation is actually coming from the esophagus, which is located behind the heart. When acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus, it causes irritation. The flow of acid into the esophagus is called acid reflux. Many people experience acid reflux occasionally but when it occurs regularly and is increasingly painful, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Symptoms of GERD
The symptoms of GERD can vary from person to person. There is a circular band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus that relaxes to let food and liquid flow into the stomach and then tightens to stop the flow. If this muscle is weak or is not working normally, the acid can flow back into the esophagus causing pain. The most common symptom is a burning sensation in the chest after eating. This discomfort can be more severe at night. There may also be chest pain, difficulty swallowing or a sensation of a lump in the throat. During the night, GERD symptoms may include coughing, laryngitis or sleep disruption.
When the acid reflux is frequent, the acid can damage the esophagus causing scar tissue to form. This scar tissue can narrow the food pathway making it hard to swallow food. The acid can also wear away the tissue in the esophagus causing an open sore or ulcer to form. This ulcer can bleed and be painful. In some cases, the acid causes changes in the tissue lining the esophagus which can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. When acid reflux is severe or occurring more than twice a week, it is time to see the doctor for treatment.
Five prevention tips
- Do not overeat. When your stomach is full, it increases upward pressure on the muscle between your stomach and esophagus. Your body will also produce excess stomach acid to digest the food. Try eating several smaller meals instead of a very large meal if you are experiencing acid reflux.
- Pace your eating so your digestive system can perform properly. Put your fork down between bites, chew your food thoroughly before swallowing and take smaller bites to reduce the stress on your digestive system.
- Avoid foods that trigger acid reflux. Fried food, fatty meats, creamy sauces, whole milk dairy products, chocolate and caffeinated beverages cause the muscle that is supposed to be controlling the food flow to relax. When the muscle is not doing its job, acid can back up into the esophagus. There are also foods that stimulate acid production including carbonated and caffeinated beverages, alcohol, spicy foods, citrus fruit and tomato-based products. When there is a high level of acid production, it may back up into the esophagus.
- Try not to eat before bedtime. Eating a big meal and then lying down can cause acid reflux. Lying down when the stomach is full allows the stomach to increase pressure on the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus, which increases the chance of acid reflux. Try to eat your meals two to three hours before heading to bed. When possible, make lunch your big meal instead of dinner. When you do lie down, elevate your head higher than your stomach. This allows gravity to reduce the pressure on the stomach muscle.
- Limit alcohol amounts. Alcohol both increases the amount of stomach acid produced and relaxes the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus. The end result is increased risk of acid reflux. If you want to drink alcohol, try diluting your drink with water or club soda. Limit consumption to one to two drinks, 16 ounces of wine or three beers during a day.
GERD is just one of the many issues that require attention during a time of recovery. Although the focus may be on a knee replacement, heart surgery or other major medical event, attention also needs to be given to other health issues that may be present like GERD, diabetes or arthritis. For many, the best way to get a comprehensive level of care for the best outcome is to choose to recover in a short-term care facility where attentive staff can address everything from wound care to diet to physical therapy in an efficient and professional manner.
Glenview Terrace, a Medicare five-star rated center for recovery, offers this high level of care. Understanding guests’ desire to quickly return to an active lifestyle, Glenview Terrace’s therapists provide customized one-on-one physical, occupational and speech therapy seven days a week on state-of-the art equipment to speed the healing process and increase mobility. Respiratory and intravenous therapies are also provided.
An attentive nursing staff provides 24-hour care and ensures all of your doctor’s orders are met and can quickly react to any issues. Respiratory issues will be carefully addressed to reduce the chances of developing pneumonia. Glenview Terrace also provides a healthy diet at every meal filled with all of the protein, vitamins and iron needed for healing.
A stay at Glenview Terrace is all about healing as quickly as possible in an elegant setting. Accommodations feature elegantly appointed suites and rooms with a walk-in shower in each bathroom. Thoughtful extras for short-term rehabilitation guests include morning coffee and newspaper delivery as well as concierge services. The beautifully landscaped grounds with a spacious patio and tranquil fountain also provide a relaxing, calming environment for a time of recovery.
When it is time for expert care, consider Glenview Terrace, where the focus is always to help get you back to the independent lifestyle you desire. For additional information or to arrange a tour, visit glenviewterrace.com or call 847-729-9090.Back