Acid Reflux: An Epidemic on the Rise

GERD, also known as acid reflux, is no joke.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Digestive Diseases says an estimated 60 million people suffer from it at least once per month.

Additionally, about 25 million people experience it daily.

The worst part? It’s a rising epidemic that many people aren’t even aware of. Below, we’ll talk about what causes, the symptoms, and the potential treatment options.

What Does GERD Mean?  

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.

It’s a fancy word with a simple meaning: heartburn.

GERD, or heartburn, happens whenever the acid in our stomach goes up the esophagus into the throat and mouth.

It’s the most common digestive disorder in the United States, which says a lot.

As the acid goes up the esophagus, it can damage delicate esophageal and throat tissue. This can cause burning, irritation, and a bitter taste in the mouth.

But even worse, it can increase your risk of cancer, too.

gerd symptoms

The Link Between GERD and Esophageal Cancer

The esophagus is the first “stop” along the digestive tract. Each time that you swallow food, it moves down the esophagus and into the stomach.

Like any organ in the body, the esophagus can develop cancerous cells.

Many studies have shown a clear association between GERD and esophageal cancer risk. So, if you have GERD, it’s recommended that you treat it as soon as possible.

How is GERD Treated?

There are two ways to treat GERD: medication and lifestyle intervention.

Unfortunately, most doctors recommend medication.

Why?

Because, quite frankly, doctors aren’t experts in nutrition (they take a maximum of 15-20 hours of nutrition in college).

With so little time spent studying nutrition, how can doctors possibly have a comprehensive understanding about how foods interact with the body?

In short, they can’t.

Americans spent a whopping $13 billion dollars on acid-suppressing drugs in 2006. That was in 2006- today, the number is likely to be much higher.

Nexium, one of these drugs, stands among the ranks of major drugs like Lipitor. There’s a dire need for doctors to become more educated about how to treat GERD using diet and exercise.  

Editors Note: Health Form still recommends that you visit your doctor and listen carefully to their advise. Then you can carefully consider your own course of action.

Lifestyle Intervention vs. Medication

If you can treat a condition through lifestyle intervention, then that’s better than taking a medication. Medication should be a last resort, only reserved for when you’ve exhausted everything else.

Many articles (1, 2, and 3) show how simple lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your incidences of GERD.

Here are some changes you can make starting today:

  • Get More Exercise: Exercise increases metabolisms which decreases the amount of time food spends in your stomach. This is great for reducing the symptoms of GERD.
  • Plant-Based is Better: More and more doctors are starting to realize the potential of plant-based diets over animal-based diets when it comes to treating GERD.
  • Don’t Eat Before Bed: Eating before bed is one of the worst things you can do if you suffer from GERD. This makes it easier for the stomach acid to go up the esophagus.

These are a few of the core changes that you can begin making as early as today.

Don’t get us wrong- if these don’t work, then by all means get on medication. However, most people will find that these lifestyle changes work wonderfully at reducing their symptoms.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

How can you tell if you have GERD without going to the doctor?

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

These are all telltale signs that you have GERD.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, go to a doctor.

They may perform an EGD, which basically allows them to look down your esophagus to see if stomach acid is causing damage to the delicate esophageal lining.

Conclusion

GERD isn’t anything to mess around with.

While it won’t kill you, it can increase your risk of esophageal cancer, which can kill you. Not to mention, the symptoms can hinder your quality of life.

If you can get rid of it via lifestyle intervention, then that’s better than taking a medication.

Good luck, and leave any questions that you have in the comments section below.

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