Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when the contents of the stomach flow back into the food pipe irritating the lining of the esophagus. GERD is the consequence of chronic acid reflux or heartburn. Acid reflux is usually such a common problem that you would think it easy to treat. But sometimes, the symptoms are not so obvious, making it easy to mistake it for something else. While in most situations, GERD symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes, if left untreated, it can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a precursor to cancer. Therefore it is essential that you are aware of the common and hidden symptoms of GERD.
Symptoms of GERD
Here are some symptoms, both mild and severe – that could mean you have acid reflux.
Chest pain: One of the classic symptoms of GERD is experiencing light to severe chest pain. Its easy to mistake this for a heart attack. Whatever the case, it is always better to check with a doctor when you experience chest pain to rule out a heart attack.
Pain while lying down or after a meal : When you’re sitting straight, gravity keeps the acid down, but when you are lying down or resting the reflux is likely to happen. If you experience pain while resting in a reclining position right after a heavy meal, you are likely experiencing the symptoms of GERD.
Bitter aftertaste: If you experience bitterness at the back of your throat, it’s a likely a symptom of GERD. In extreme cases, this can cause choking especially when sleeping at night.
Husky or hoarse voice: Another not so obvious symptom of acid reflux is a hoarse or husky voice, that feels like a cold is coming on. If you experience this symptom right after a meal, its most likely a sign of reflux.
Sore throat: A sore throat might seem like a symptom of flu, but if you experience the soreness only after meals, its most likely heartburn. The soreness is usually not accompanied by further symptoms such as sneezing.
Coughing and asthma: Common respiratory problems like coughing or wheezing may be as a result of acid getting into your lungs. If you experience chronic dry cough right after a meal, it is likely a sign of GERD. In some cases, it is possible for the stomach acid to trigger the nerves in the chest to constrict to prevent acid from getting in, resulting in asthma. Though not clearly proven, you can get it checked with your doctor to remove all doubt.
Nausea: Nausea is a symptom that is common with many different ailments, but if you experience it right after a meal, it may be an indicator of acid reflux.
Increase in saliva: If you find that your mouth is producing extra saliva, it may a sign that your body is trying to wash off the effects of the acid in the esophagus.
Difficulty swallowing: If left untreated, the acid reflux can cause swelling of the esophagus tissue, causing a constriction of the esophagus and resulting in swallowing difficulties.
Lump in your throat: If you have a feeling of a lump in your throat, it is likely a sign of GERD.
Bad Breath: The regurgitation of the contents of the stomach won’t just leave a bitter taste in your mouth, it could also lead to bad breath.
Earache: Ear pain or ear infections can also be signs of GERD.
What Causes GERD?
Although the common causes of GERD are linked to the consumption of food and beverages such as chocolate, peppermint, coffee or fatty foods; smoking, drinking alcohol, lying down or reclining right after a meal, obesity, pregnancy, intake of medicines such as painkillers, sedatives, and antidepressants; and hiatal hernia among others, Norman Robillard, Ph.D., author and founder of Digestive Health Institute, in his book Heartburn Cured underlines the primary cause of GERD as an increase in intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) caused by the mal-absorption of carbohydrates. This theory is further supported by Chris Kresser, a global leader in ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine, who believes that the mal-absorption is the result of low stomach acid, which contributes to bacterial growth in the bowels.
Whatever the causes of GERD, being aware of the early signs of GERD and acid reflux will help you take quick remedial measures and stay healthy. Learn more about how you can fight acid reflux here.