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How gastroesophageal reflux disease can impact digestive health

January 04, 2016 in Digestion & Nutrition

While many individuals are lucky enough to never deal with anything worse than a stomach ache or heartburn when it comes to their digestive system, others are plagued by more persistent and uncomfortable problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease. These digestive health issues can be the result of a variety of biological and lifestyle factors. As a result, individuals may have difficulty eating, digesting and evacuating food, causing rippling complications throughout the body. Some choose to reduce bloating and sluggishness with a digestive cleanse, but it is important to learn more about the condition before you take action.  

The digestive system can be a mysterious area for many people who are often trying to balance their dietary cravings with healthy meal choices. Because of this, learning as much about conditions that can negatively affect the esophagus, stomach and intestines can help individuals with digestive issues get to the root of the problem. One such issue is gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can cause pain throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease?

According to MedlinePlus, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition that involves the barrier between the stomach and esophagus. While some individuals might recognize this issue as being similar to heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a more serious version that occurs regularly throughout the week. Usually, doctors characterize the disease as occurring at least two times per week.

The digestive condition is the result of a faulty muscle located in the rear of the esophagus. When this muscle is unable to fully close, digestive acids and fluids from the stomach can leak up into the esophagus, resulting in an unappealing taste, burning sensation and inflammation. While this condition tends to affect older adults, people of all ages can develop gastroesophageal reflux disease. Additionally, the disease may affect different people with varying symptoms and severity, requiring individual strategies to overcome pain and discomfort.

Heartburn - a burning sensation in the esophagus - is one of the most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, certain individuals may experience this condition without any significant traces of heartburn. Other typical signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease include respiratory issues, difficulty swallowing food and a hacking cough.

What are the causes and risk factors of gastroesophageal reflux disease?

In addition to an abnormally functioning muscle in the back of the throat, gastroesophageal reflux disease is primarily caused by frequent bouts of acid reflux, reports WebMD. Stomach acids and bile are designed to break down food in the digestive system, and when they are exposed to the lining of the esophagus, it can result in erosion and inflammation. 

While there are a variety of influential factors that can trigger gastroesophageal reflux disease, one of the primary causes is believed to be a hiatal hernia. This is a condition where the hiatus located in the diaphragm interferes with the esophagus due to pressure from the stomach below. As the hiatus becomes further compressed against the esophagus, it can result in the lower esophageal sphincter becoming damaged, which can allow contents from the stomach to leak into the food pipe.

Certain foods and beverages also function as triggers for gastroesophageal reflux disease. For example, consuming an excessive amount of foods high in fat can cause acid reflux, as can chocolate and peppermint. Similarly, coffee, hard liquor and beer may also contribute to heartburn and acid reflux. Overweight and obese individuals who do not practice good dietary or exercise habits are more prone to the condition, as are pregnant women.

What are treatment options for gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Rampant acid reflux caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease can generally be treated by using over-the-counter medications designed to reduce acid buildup, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, many of these widely available medications will only relieve immediate pain and discomfort - not stop heartburn altogether.

For individuals who are not eager to try prescription medications or surgery to address their gastroesophageal reflux disease, there are home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help control acid reflux and heartburn. First and foremost, cutting out foods and beverages that can influence the condition is a great place to start. Individuals should avoid greasy, fatty foods as well as alcoholic beverages and candy. However, it's important to note that different people may have unique trigger foods. Tobacco products can also cause issues with the lower esophageal sphincter's ability to control acid and bile.

Similarly, the source recommends that individuals stay physically fit and consume nutritious meals to control their weight. Overweight and obese people are more likely to experience internal pressure on their abdomen, which is associated with acid reflux. Diet and exercise can help minimize the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Portion control is another important consideration, as eating large meals can result in digestive discomfort and bloating. 

If you are feeling constantly bloated and uncomfortable, you can also try the DR-HO's 30 Day Digestive Cleanse. This gentle, all natural cleanse is designed to safely cleanse your colon of build-up that can cause you to feel sluggish and uncomfortable.

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