Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Self-Care Guide

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition that presents as the ejection of stomach acid and other stomach compounds into the esophagus. It might give the perception of uneasiness, stinging, and redness if the illness continues without treatment. 

Medical treatment is generally the most popular option for managing GERD, and various personal care approaches can reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Screenshot from: Livgastro

This article will also focus on these strategies at the risk of oversimplification. It will not only make a few lifestyle changes and provide practical tips and recommendations for reducing GERD symptoms through self-care but also explain their basis in detail.

Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:

However, before discussing the self-care strategies, a general insight into the pathophysiological processes and causes of GERD is vital. GERD occurs when the Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LES)—a muscular ring that is a valve between the esophagus and stomach—becomes weak or relaxes inappropriately. 

This allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing acid back, leading to symptoms such as heartburn symptoms, burping, chest pain, and struggle to take the food. Several risk factors that can contribute to the development of GERD, including:

(i) Dietary Habits: Especially with specific foods and liquids, take sugar-free chewing gum when traveling; if you eat fatty foods and spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks, acid reflux re-flow will be triggered, and the acid reflux symptoms will be more serious.

(ii) Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, poor posture, moderate weight, and GERD are the four necessary factors for obesity.

(iii) Medical Conditions: The wrong position of the esophagus in hiatal hernia, pregnancy, and specific medical conditions like scleroderma and gastroparesis can aggravate GERD.

(iv) Medications: Some medications can diminish the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which may even be capable of aggravating GERD symptoms. For example, NSAIDs, calcium channel blockers, and certain sedatives may weaken the LES.

Self-Care Strategies for Managing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:

GERD treatment usually depends on medical interventions. However, self-care is vital for proper symptom management and controlling the condition. The following self-care strategies can help individuals with GERD alleviate symptoms and improve their overall health-related quality of life:

1. Dietary Modifications:

(i) Identify Trigger Foods: Maintain a food journal to mark food triggers for your symptoms and determine which foods cause your GERD symptoms to worsen. Most typical trigger foods are spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, acidic foods, and fatty or fried foods.

(ii) Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals: Instead of consuming big meals, go for smaller, more frequent meals to reduce the stress on LES and keep the risk of acid, acid reflux symptoms and heartburn at bay.

(iii) Avoid Eating Before Bed: Never eat a huge meal or snack close to bedtime since GERD symptoms might worsen when one lies down. Spend at least 2-3 hours after your last meal before you go to bed.

(iv) Raise the Head of Your Bed: Use bed risers or wedges to raise the top of your bed 6-8 inches to prevent stomach acid from regurgitating into the esophagus while asleep.

2. Lifestyle Modifications:

(i) Maintain a Healthy Weight: If you are overweight or obese, losing weight will help reduce the pressure on the belly and lower esophageal sphincter, which may, in turn, reduce the number of times and intensity of GERD signs.

(ii) Quit Smoking: Smoking can worsen the LES and can lead to the production of more stomach acid, which makes GERD symptoms worse. Stop smoking, and all the GERD symptoms, including the risk factor of serious complications, would be reduced.

(iii) Avoid Tight Clothing: Tight clothing, especially on the area of the waist and abdomen, could increase the pressure on the stomach and, thereby more pressure, drive the symptoms of GERD. Choose a comprehensive and accessible clothing option in order not to feel prickly.

3. Behavioral Changes:

(i) Practice Proper Eating Habits: Engage the chewing movement consciously, and you should eat slowly, swallow food and should not talk while eating to avoid sucking in air that makes bloating and belching possible.

(ii) Manage Stress: Stress can worsen GERD symptoms, increase stomach acid production, and then affect the digestion and digestive system. Implement stress prevention methods through the use of deep breathing, meditation, yoga or mindfulness, which help to alleviate stress and anxiety

(iii) Stay Upright After Meals: Avoid lying down or reclining right after eating meals because it can help your stomach develop acid reflux. Avoid lying down for at least two to three hours after your meals, as it would be even easier for your stomach to pull the stomach contents down with gravity.

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Pexels

4. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications:

(i) Antacids: Antacids, which include calcium carbonate (Tums) and aluminum hydroxide/magnesium hydroxide (Maalox, Mylanta), are over-the-counter medications that neutralize stomach acid and provide temporary relief from mild GERD symptoms.

(ii) H2 Receptor Blockers: H2 receptor blockers, such as ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid), lower stomach acid production, creating a more extended alleviation of GERD symptoms.

(iii) Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): With PPIs like omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid) having a potent acid-suppressing effect, it becomes possible to effectively manage and treat the GERD symptoms involving the reduction of gastric acid production. 

These drugs undoubtedly ease the pain and other persistent symptoms but should be taken under the guidance of a health professional, or else they may lead to long-term side effects.

5. Herbal Remedies and Supplements:

(i) Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL): DGL refers to a type of licorice subjected to processing to remove glycyrrhizin- a compound that can raise blood pressure. DGL may function as an anti-inflammatory agent for inflamed esophageal tissues by providing relief to GERD sufferers when it is taken before meals.

(ii) Ginger: Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties that help with nausea and other symptoms of other digestive tract problems caused by GERD. Try drinking ginger tea or taking ginger supplements when you suffer from discomfort.

6. Sleep Hygiene:

(i) Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule: Advice for a regular bedtime and wake-up time helps maintain circadian rhythm and increase sleep quality.

(ii) Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment: Try to keep your sleeping place silent, dark, and undisturbed—Earmark funds for a comfortable mattress and bedding as starting a sleep regime.

(iii) Limit Stimulants Before Bed: Avoid eating or drinking caffeine, alcohol, or heavy meals near bedtime, as these may affect sleeping patterns and create bad GERD symptoms.

7. Monitor Symptoms and Seek Medical Advice:

(i) Track Symptom Severity: Keep a logbook of the frequency and severity of your symptoms and any possible causes or triggers that could make them worse.

(ii) Consult a Healthcare Professional: If you keep practicing self-care measures like avoiding certain foods and alcohol intake but still find your symptoms flaring up, consult a healthcare professional. In addition, you might be recommended to take tests, prescribed drugs or any other treatment that may help control your condition.

8. Complementary and Alternative Therapies:

Consider incorporating alternative therapies with self-care as part of the GERD management plan. Acupuncture and acupressure involve stimulating particular body points to affect relaxation and stress reduction. 

Meditation practices can also manage stress, which may be an underlying reason for GERD problems. While such studies continue, they could be the source of more relief when combined with other strategies. Talk to your doctor and ask them to suggest these methods depending on whether they will work well in your treatment plan for GERD.

9. Complications of GERD:

If GERD is left untreated, complications are likely to develop. Esophagitis is inflammation of the oesophagus caused by prolonged acid exposure. It can result in a burning sensation, difficulty swallowing, and even bleeding. Sores (ulcers) can develop along with the esophagus lining in extreme cases. 

Stenoses are narrowings of the esophagus caused by muscle scarring from chronic inflammation. They can easily lead to difficulties in swallowing, which may even require hospital intervention. Early detection of GERD may prevent complications from developing. If you have had symptoms for a long time, call your doctor, and he or she will give you a treatment plan to avoid possible consequences.

10. When to See a Doctor

Despite the benefits of self-care techniques, a time to see a doctor may come. If your GERD symptoms aggravate, prove to be unbearable or do not respond to self-care strategies, you should see a doctor. Indications that you need to see a doctor include blood in vomiting, dysphagia (difficulty with swallowing) or pain in the chest that radiates to the jaw or arm. 

These imply a more severe problem. Proper diagnosis and management of GERD can prevent progression to more serious problems and improve your living conditions. Please do not hesitate to talk with your doctor about GERD if and when you have concerns.

11. Prognosis and Long-Term Management:

GERD is a chronic, developed, and desperate situation that requires long-term attention. However, supervision makes control over its severity and a comfortable life possible. Although there is no definite cure, by creating a combination of lifestyle changes, taking medication and self-care, the problem of GERD can be successfully managed. 

Chronic treatment is required to sustain the alleviation of symptoms and prevent future issues from becoming more frequent. Working with your doctor can help you develop a personalized management plan designed for your exact condition and aimed at delivering sustained control of acid reflux disease.

12. Support Groups and Resources:

You must know that you are not the only one with GERD symptoms. Support groups make you feel like you are never alone since everyone present knows your lack of appetite and notifies you of what could worsen your bite. Hearing our lifetime experiences and tips from traveling incorporates the ability to feel encouraged and knowledgeable. 

Many of the free online resources provide information and allow you to reach out to people with Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Such tools will significantly aid your understanding of the condition, and you can take up the bull with the horns. Talk to your doctor about it, or do online research regarding your area’s support groups and resources for acid or higher levels.

Conclusion:

With GERD being a chronic and troublesome condition to deal with, self-management interventions such as these have a fundamental role in mitigating the effect of symptoms and improving overall health status. 

By making dietary changes, healthy lifestyle modifications and habits, stress management techniques, and over-the-counter medication and herbal remedies as required, people with GERD can have clingy symptoms and improve their social lives. Manage their symptoms and mitigate the chronic impact of the disease on their lives daily. 

Nevertheless, this should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional to build an individual treatment plan that would factor in the unique specifications of your health and your medical history.

Last Updated on by AnoushkaRoy

Author

Durba Datta

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