GERD is an acronym (like a nickname) for gastroesophageal reflux disease, meaning you have it most of the time. GER is occasional reflux. To simplify things, I’ll only use the first acronym or I’ll call it “reflux.”
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is commonly called “reflux”, or “acid reflux”, or “heartburn” and it affects more than 60 million Americans at least once per month, according to WedMD. Reflux is one of the causes of indigestion.
When you eat, food goes into your mouth and is chewed. When you swallow, the food travels down through the esophagus by muscles contracting and relaxing. Then the food enters into the stomach, and a valve (a ring of muscle called a “sphincter muscle”) is supposed to close and prevent the food from re-entering the esophagus.
Here is a simplified diagram of the digestive system showing where the valve is located.
In gastroesophageal reflux, the valve doesn’t close well enough, and liquids, food and stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus and sometimes even into the back of the throat or the mouth. Stomach acid is very acidic, so it burns the tissues lining the esophagus, throat and mouth.
According to PubMed Health and WebMD, you are at risk if you are:
When you look at the above diagram of the digestive system, you notice that it is basically one long tube from mouth to anus. What you may not realize, however, is that a dysfunction in one part of the tube can have consequences in other parts of the tube.
When people think of gastroesophageal reflux, they only think the stomach and the esophagus are involved, when in reality, any point along the digestive tract can be part of the problem.
Eleven other causes of reflux that are not usually mentioned in conventional medicine are:
Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult with GERD (or pregnancy for that matter). Here are some user-reviewed options for wedge pillows.
The pillow should be big enough and firm enough to support your back. A longer pillow is better if you are a side sleeper. Several sizes and heights are included.
Note that you may want to air out foam pillows before using. Read the fine print to know the conditions for being able to return it.
I used one of these during my pregnancies years ago just to be able to breathe better. I also used it after I had sinus surgery.
Medcline Complete Reflux Relief System: 24" wide, adjustable head height, and optional side extensions - "I've suffered from acid reflux for years and after trying many different medicines and trying to prop up normal pillows, I think this inclined pillow system from Medcline has solved the problem." Jan. 4, 2013 review.
Rose Medical Wedge Pillow for GERD: 25" x 23" x12" - "Definitely worth a try if you suffer from GERD." Feb. 18, 2013 review.
MedSlant Wedge Pillow for GERD: 32" x 24" x 7" - "I've had acid reflux for many years. No combination of pillows can substitute for this type of long wedge that will elevate your head and still keep alignment with your back all the way down to your waist. This is big relief." - Feb. 25, 2013 review
The Bedge Wedge Pillow for GERD: 42" x 30" x 9" - "I have been searching for an Acid Reflux wedge product and this is the best one. It works and it works well. If you have GERD like I do you will get the relief you are looking for with this product. It's very large and comfortable and the best part is the acids stay down." August 25, 2011 review.
Now that you know the causes of reflux, learn more about the surprising symptoms of reflux, how it is diagnosed, and some complications here.
Check out these pages to learn about the pros and cons of the different therapies.
Treatment with proton-pump inhibitors
Help from probiotics, and why you need stomach acid.
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