Do you suffer from heartburn or GERD? Have you ever been awakened from a deep slumber in the middle of the night, feeling terrified that you’re drowning in stomach acid as it painfully forces it way up your throat? Have antacids or proton pump inhibitor medications become a regular staple on your weekly grocery list? If so, you are far from alone in this. This is evident by the plethora of over the counter medications available for heartburn and GERD. If this problem was not so prevalent in western society, there would not be so many of these medicines available to you.
What is GERD?
Heartburn, also called GERD (gastroesophagael reflux disease), happens when the acid in your stomach flows back up and into your esophagus. Heartburn symptoms often occur shortly after eating and can last for a few minutes or even hours. GERD causes a mild to painful burning sensation in your chest or throat, can result in a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, or even cough and or sinus symptoms such as post nasal drip. Your risk of GERD will increase when you have excess belly fat which causes pressure on the stomach that causes a back flow of stomach acid
Obesity causes us far too many avoidable problems. Those problems which arise as a result of being fat are far greater than hoping to be able to get a seat belt around yourself or having to buy new clothes every so often as your girth increases. The fatter you become, the more pressure your belly fat places onto your stomach which causes more GERD,
But, I can always take a Zantac or Previcid to prevent this, why worry?
Well, besides the unpleasant sensation of re-tasting your food which is now mixed with caustic stomach acid, GERD also burns the hell out of your esophagus – no different than how battery acid will burn your skin on the outside of your body. Once your esophagus has been burned by the stomach acid, it can take a couple days before it is healed. The risk of allowing this burning of your esophagus to continue is you become more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus. GERD is nothing you should take lightly just because you do not need to see your physician in order to get medications to alleviate some of the painful symptoms. GERD can potentially kill you.
As acid flows back into the esophagus, it can cause irritation and inflammation. Throughout time, complications can develop. The esophagus can narrow, leading to a stricture and swallowing problems. A sore or ulcer can develop which can bleed, be painful and make swallowing difficult. Additionally, precancerous changes can occur to the esophagus, called Barrett’s esophagus, which is the main risk factor for developing esophageal cancer.
It turns out that obesity is associated with three related esophageal disorders: GERD, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma. The risk for these disorders seems to progressively increase with increasing weight. The goal of treating GERD is not only to decrease bothersome GERD symptoms but also to decrease one’s risks of developing these other, more serious esophageal conditions.
What can you do?
The most effective action you can personally take is to make the decision to lose weight and then carry through with this plan. Create a lifestyle that involves healthy eating by cutting out added sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed foods. This change to a healthy lifestyle is much more affordable than high priced over the counter medications, and or, visits to your doctor. Losing weight is certainly more of an attractive option that letting the condition go until you have developed esophageal adenocarcinoma. You need to know that if you reach this point, adenocarcinoma’s are very aggressive and hard to treat cancers that can and will take your life with a swiftness. I watched my healthy, younger sister, lose her life in only 18 months after diagnosis with adenocarcinoma, even after very aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This disease is no joke.
In a 2012 study published in the journal Obesity; The majority of individuals who were overweight or affected by obesity who enrolled in a structured weight-loss program including dietary, physical activity and behavioral changes, experienced complete resolution of their GERD symptoms. The relationship between weight-loss and resolution of symptoms was dependent on the amount of weight lost, such that the more weight subjects lost, the greater improvement they saw in symptoms. Whereas women saw improvement in GERD symptoms after losing 5 to 10 percent of their weight, men experienced improvement after losing 10 percent of their weight.
If you think it is perfectly fine to remain obese and to continue just treating your GERD with medications, remember this; Like all medications, GERD medications can have side effects and can interact with other drugs. The only goal you should have through using medication as a therapy is to relieve GERD symptoms, in order to allow the healing of the esophagus, and to prevent GERD complications while you are actively losing weight to achieve a healthy level of body fat. GERD medications should be a temporary necessity, and not become a permanent item you keep stored in your medicine cabinet.
While the risks of taking GERD medications long term are minimal as compared to living with the condition, there is still risk for some. From Web.MD; People who use common heartburn drugs for months to years may face heightened risks of dying from heart disease, kidney failure or stomach cancer, a new study suggests.
The study included more than 200,000 U.S. veterans. It’s the latest to raise concerns over drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They include prescription and over-the-counter drugs like Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). And they rank among the top-selling medications in the United States.
Research in recent years has linked prolonged PPI use to increased risks of various diseases and premature death.
In today’s world, health care is extremely expensive and the expense is only going to keep rising no matter what any politician on Capital Hill might tell you when promoting their latest Heath Care Plan. Some think eating healthy is too expensive as well. However, what you always have to take into consideration is that, even if some of your healthy grocery store items might cost a bit more, it is and always will be cheaper for you to manage your weight through healthy nutrition over spending any extra hard earned dollars you may have on unnecessary health care treatments that can all be traced back to unhealthy personal habits.