Upset stomachs can be a real pain! You might be sitting down to enjoy a nice meal, ready to savour the flavours of whatever tasty morsels end up on your plate when you feel that sickening grumbling in your stomach. You feel the familiar burning sensation of heartburn, and your meal plans are suddenly looking perilous. It could very well be that you just ate something funny before your meal, and that your body is responding in protest. If, however, you experience heartburn on a regular basis, there may be a more pernicious underlying cause; acid reflux.
Acid reflux, known under the medical name gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that affects large swaths of the population; about 13% of Canadians are affected by the disease. It is caused when acids from the digestive system come back up into the esophagus; this area is not lined with acid-resistant substances, so the acid begins to corrode the flesh. In a normally functioning digestive system, a valve prevents these acidic fluids from coming back up; it is the malfunctioning of this valve that causes GERD.
A wide variety of different factors can affect the development of GERD. Obesity has been linked with the condition, as has a high blood calcium level. A variety of other syndromes and gastrointestinal diseases are also linked to GERD. Because one of the most frequent symptoms of GERD is heartburn, afflicted individuals will often not visit their physicians about the condition, assuming it is strictly linked to their eating habits; eating certain foods can trigger heartburn in some individuals. This is problematic, because the longer GERD is present and unmanaged, the more damage that can be done to your digestive system.
With children, discovering the presence of GERD is even more difficult; babies and toddlers are especially hard to diagnose, because of their limited capacity for communication. Even as children get older, they may complain irregularly of stomach aches or chest pain, and it’s not always obvious what the cause is.
Treatment of GERD comes in a variety of forms; it can include lifestyle changes and medical intervention. Smoking cessation, not lying down for a period of time after eating, weight loss and dietary changes can all help manage the symptoms of GERD. Antacids may be recommended, and in the most severe scenarios, surgery may be required after a series of diagnostics.
The influx of acid towards the top of the digestive system can cause the deterioration of the enamel of sufferer’s teeth; the refluxed acid can, and often does, reach the mouth. Because the rest of your digestive system is not externally visible, your dentist may well be the first person to notice you have GERD; because smoking cessation and a good diet are already key elements to proper dental care, they will also be able to provide you with the tools and knowledge necessary to undergo GERD reducing lifestyle changes. Taking your children to the dentist is also especially important since it can be so hard to detect in young people. As an over 30 years experienced dental clinic, Markham Dental Centre will be able to help you get your acid reflux under control.