I’ve Got “the Gerd”
When people of my parents’ generation suffered from indigestion, they’d often rub a fist against their chest and proclaim that they had “the GERD”. As an imaginative, young child I remember wondering what kind of GERD-ish creature could be living inside a person’s body. Whatever it was, I decided it must be green, like Sesame Street’s® Oscar the Grouch, judging by the sour face of the person who claimed to be “in possession” of said monster.
Last year, I guess I became officially old—I got “the GERD” myself! Coughing after meals, intermittent acid burning up into my throat, and deep aching pain at the base of my breastbone convinced me to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist. After a thorough history and examination (followed by an endoscopy procedure), I was diagnosed with GERD. I was given some dietary advice (avoid spicy and fatty foods, don’t eat late at night, yadda, yadda, yadda) and placed on a prescription medication which decreases the acidity of my stomach’s digestive juices. Within 3-4 days my symptoms were completely relieved.
“GERD” isn’t actually a word—or a small, green monster—it’s an acronym which stands for: Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder, also known as acid reflux or ingestion. The symptoms associated with it are caused by an upward “leaking” of stomach acid into the esophagus (the tube which funnels food from your mouth into your stomach). This leaking can occur for two reasons. First, the sphincter (valve) between your stomach and your esophagus has become weakened, or second (which was my case), a hiatal hernia in which the uppermost portion of the stomach has poked up through the diaphragm so that the sphincter is unable to do its job.
As a patient, I do not have the typical presentation of a GERD sufferer. Common factors/habits which can produce or aggravate GERD include:
- being overweight
- regularly eating a “bad diet” (fried, fatty foods)
If reflux is an issue you are presently experiencing, begin self-management by reducing or eliminating any of the above factors that pertain to you (pregnancy must run its course, of course). Additionally, please go and get checked out by a gastroenterologist (as GERD is the primary risk factor for esophageal cancer, a very deadly form of cancer). And hey, if you’re over 50 and haven’t had your baseline colonoscopy, you can do double duty while you’re there!