People face indigestion problems occasionally and it is normal. But, when the frequency increases dramatically, it may be because of a serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is more prevalent and common in southern India.
GERD is a condition characterized by backflow of stomach acids, food and fluids into the esophagus. This can cause health problems such as inflammation of the esophagus (a potent risk for esophageal cancer), if left untreated. One might also suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma, fluid accumulation in the lungs, chest congestion, wheezing and pneumonia.
What Symptoms Signify GERD?
Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn, bad breath, nausea, vomiting, coughing and abdominal pain. Few symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing and teeth erosion, can happen before or after GERD.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors diagnose GERD based on symptoms and medical history. Sometimes, testing might be required and a gastroenterologist is the right person to do it. A chest X-ray may be taken to detect breathing problems and lung infections or an upper GI-series (digestive organs) X-ray can help you find the problem residing in your body. Endoscopy, a nonsurgical procedure in which a flexible tube passes through the GI tract to take pictures and tissue sample, might be conducted. A pH probe instrument helps to track the flow of acid from the stomach.
Try to overcome the problem without any medication by adopting lifestyle changes. Simple changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, wearing loose-fitting clothes, sitting upright for some time after meals and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. If none of these options work, then you can go for medication.
Eating the right food at the right time prevents much GERD flare-ups. Try to take smaller meal portions frequently. Fatty foods can aggravate GERD and it is recommended to limit added butter, oil and fried foods in your meal preparations. Instead, choose baked dishes. Lean meats, poultry, fish and beans are good protein sources. Substitute full-fat dairy with low-fat dairy options that are good sources of calcium and vitamin D as these prevent GERD symptoms.
Stay away from chocolate, spicy foods, acidic foods, alcohol, caffeine and mint that can worsen GERD symptoms.
Maintain a food journal of all the things that you eat or drink. Also, note down the symptoms and the foods that cause these symptoms to identify patterns over time. Get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com to help you prepare a customized meal plan avoiding all the GERD-increasing foods yet maintaining optimal health requirements.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.