DEFINITION OF GERD: (Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease) is best defined as the symptoms and/or esophageal mucosal damage produced by the abnormal reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus, causing heartburn or acid regurgitation.
BACKGROUND AND SYMPTOMS: Although this often produces discomfort, like burning in the upper chest, indigestion, choking at night and a possible sore throat, there is sometimes no discomfort whatsoever. This prospect is a little disheartening because the stomach acid can be damaging the esophagus without the patient being aware of such until it is too late. In late stages, this disorder can lead to erosion or even cancer of the esophagus. Thus, it is quite important to consult a physician if you suspect you might have such. Approximately 7% of the population suffer from acid reflux.
snoring, choking or breathing problems often noticed by a spouse or partner
sore throat upon awakening
often preceded by recent weight gain around the abdomen
H2 Blockers - most commonly Tagament, Pepcid or Zantac and function to reduce stomach acid in mild cases.
Proton Pump Inhibitors - most commonly Nexium and Prilosec, function to decrease stomach acid production and thereby provide the chance for the esophagus lining to heal. Usually used in the more severe cases or if H2 Blockers should fail.
Antacids - most commonly Mylanta, Tums or Rolaids, function to buffer an acid stomach and are used more symtomatically in intermittent cases of heartburn.
One common problem with all the above medications that is not often considered by physicians and/or patients is the fact that decreasing or buffering stomach acid, stifles proper protein digestion leading to decreased absorption of nutrients and improper elimination via bowel movements. Thus, sensible natural alternatives should be considered. One proven such alternative frequently recommended by gastroenterologists is upper body or torso elevation while sleeping.
ELEVATING YOUR UPPER BODY WHILE SLEEPING There are 2 viable methods of elevating the body to relieve the symptoms of reflux or GERD.
Use an electric adjustable bed. The head and leg portion are both adjustable and can offer great comfort if combined with the right foam mattress. NOTE: a RX from your physician can often substantiate insurance re-imbursement as a necessary medical device.
Use a torso elevating foam or inflatable bed wedge. This is an economical method and also the inflatable type facilitates the ability to travel without discomfort from your acid reflux condition. Most patients find the inflatable type more comfortable than foam even for use at home. Either wedge may be placed at the head of the bed, either on top of the mattress or underneath the mattress. If used on top, we recommend that you use your head/neck pillow on top of the wedge. A soft pillow should be utilized to keep the knees slightly bent to prevent causing low back discomfort when sleeping face up. A wedge may be utilized in both face up and side postures.
DO NOT use regular pillows to elevate the body, they allow slumping and bending of the esophagus and thus allow acid accumulation in the bend.
ALTERNATIVE NUTRITIONAL COMPONENTS It's sufficient to say at this time that there are some very good alternatives for the medications that are conventionally prescribed for GERD and acid reflux. However, we'll save that for a future post.