GERD is often referred to as the “œsilent epidemic”. The reason why is because many people have it without any noticeable symptoms. That”™s what makes it so dangerous. In this article, we”™re going to talk about what GERD is, as well as how to prevent it.
What is GERD?
Gerd stands for Gastroesophageal reflux disease. That”™s just a fancy way of saying “œacid reflux”, or heartburn. It”™s estimated that about 50 million Americans are affected by GERD- and many of them don”™t”™ even know it.
Why is it considered dangerous? Because it can increase your risk of cancer, particularly esophageal cancer. As stomach acid flows up the esophagus, it causes a lot of tissue damage. In some cases, the stomach acid can even reach as far as the mouth (causing damage to taste buds) and/or airway.
The stomach acid then eats away at the tissue, which can eventually lead to cancer. While GERD is treatable, it often goes unnoticed, and so people don”™t do anything about it. Below, we”™ll talk about the different ways you can reduce your risk of developing GERD.
Symptoms of GERD
As we mentioned earlier, GERD is considered a “œsilent” condition- that is, it”™s hard to detect any noticeable symptoms. With that said, there are a few symptoms that may present themselves. These include:
- Chronic Cough
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Burning Throat
- Nasal Drip
- Tooth Decay
- Bad Breath
Another symptom that people can experience is waking up choking. Many people confuse this symptom with something else, when in fact, it”™s probably GERD. One of the biggest telltale signs of GERD is waking up with a sore throat. This happens because the stomach acid slowly eats away at the pharyngeal tissue throughout the night.
If a doctor concludes that you have GERD, they”™ll most likely prescribe you a proton-pump inhibitor (Nexium and Prilosec are the most common ones). The question is, are they the most effective solution for treating GERD? The answer isn”™t entirely clear.
On one hand, proton-pump inhibitors are great at reducing stomach acid concentration, which can reduce the symptoms of GERD. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that low stomach acid can also increase the presence of the bacteria H. pylori.
Our recommendation? Take proton-pump inhibitors sparingly. Chronically low stomach acid might do more harm than good in the long run. A more effective solution is to adopt a diet that will reduce the symptoms of GERD naturally.
The GERD Diet
There are certain foods that can make your GERD symptoms worse. These include chocolate, onions, tomatoes, alcohol, caffeine, and many high fat foods. You don”™t need to eliminate these foods from your diet- simply lessen their intake. Although it sounds clichÃ©, try to eat more fruits and vegetables. These have shown to be very effective at reducing GERD symptoms.
Focus on Healthy Fats
A fat is nothing more than a type of nutrient. It”™s relatively dense in calories, and should be incorporated into everyone”™s diet. However, it”™s important that you”™re consuming healthy fats– especially if you”™ve been diagnosed with GERD. Here are examples of healthy fats:
- Monounsaturated Fats: Seeds, nuts, olive oil, and avocados fall in this category.
- Polyunsaturated Fats: Tofu, soy beans, and salmon are solid choices.
An example of an unhealthy fat is saturated fat. Found mainly in animal products, saturated fat can trigger GERD in otherwise healthy people. To reduce your intake of saturated fat, cut back on fatty animal products like meat and dairy.
Don”™t Eat Before Bed!
One of the worst things people suffering from GERD can do is eat right before bed. If you do this, you”™re almost guaranteed to worsen your symptoms. As a rule, eat your final meal of the day at least three hours before bed. That should give your body enough time to digest the meal so that you don”™t regurgitate so much stomach acid in the middle of the night.
Just because you have GERD, doesn”™t mean that you”™re going to get cancer. However, it does increase your chances. For this reason, it”™s time to start paying attention to your body. If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor. They”™ll like prescribe you a proton-pump inhibitor which, when combined with a proper diet, should reduce or eliminate your symptoms.