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Don’t Ignore Frequent Heartburn!

July 29, 2014

Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn each year.  Unfortunately, many of those Americans are experiencing chronic heartburn, which occurs more than twice a week.   Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.  This disease is known more commonly as GERD and is a major risk factor for esophageal cancer.

Heartburn is often ignored, disregarded and poorly managed.  Many heartburn suffers try to self-medicate through the use of antacids or acid reducing medications.  Typically, these medications do not work long-term for those whose heartburn symptoms caused by GERD.

GERD affects almost 1/3 of all Americans and is the most expensive gastrointestinal disorder in the United States, with direct and indirect costs totaling approximately $10 billion dollars each year.   

The National Cancer Institute defines GERD as the backward flow of stomach acid contents into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).   It is also known as esophageal reflux and gastric reflux.

This back flow is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter, which is a ring of muscle that opens and closes the opening between the esophagus and the stomach.  The LES can’t contain the stomach contents from entering back up into the esophagus.

Overtime, this reflux of stomach acids damages the lining of the esophageal wall and can cause the cells to become abnormal and potentially lead to esophageal cancer.   This change in the cells, which line the lower part of the esophageal wall, is known as Barrett’s esophagus, a sometimes precancerous condition.

Taking medications, whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor, does not repair the LES.   These medications only treat the symptoms of the disease while the damage can continue to occur.  Also, these medications are intended for temporary relief and are not to be taken for an extended period of time.

As we mentioned, GERD is one of the risks associated with esophageal cancer, along with other factors, such as being overweight or Barrett’s esophagus.   Having one of these risk factors does not mean that cancer will result.  However, having one of these risk factors and not being proactive can significantly further the risk of esophageal cancer.

The earlier esophageal cancer is detected, the better.  Unfortunately, there are currently no standard or routine screenings to detect esophageal cancer in its earliest stages.

It is imperative that patients suffering from chronic and frequent heartburn to be proactive.   Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes to help reduce GERD symptoms.  Also, discuss the various tests used to detect esophageal cancer.  Click here for more information regarding methods used to detect esophageal cancer.

Visit us on Facebook and tell us if you or someone you know suffers from chronic heartburn. We’re here to help! Facebook.com/SalgiFoundation 

Almost one-third of Americans have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD heartburn chronic acid reflux.  which is the most expensive gastrointestinal disorder in the United States US USA U.S. with direct and indirect costs totaling, $10 billion per year.

Sources:
refluxmd.com 
cancer.gov
iffgd.org 
 
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Study links abdominal fat (visceral) to increased risk of Barrett’s esophagus

February 14, 2014

A recent study shows that carrying more weight in the midsection may increase one’s risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus, a precursor to esophageal cancer.

Health.Harvard.edu

Barrett’s esophagus is “a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is damaged by stomach acid and changed to a lining similar to that of the stomach.”*  Barrett’s esophagus has been shown to be a precursor to esophageal cancer.  

This study linked a higher amount of visceral fat to a greater risk of Barrett’s esophagus.

The fat located in the abdominal region is either defined as visceral or subcutaneous. Visceral fat surrounds the organs in the abdominal region, while subcutaneous fat is located between the skin and the abdominal wall. 

Researchers reported that the elevated risk of Barrett’s esophagus related to the increase of visceral abdominal fat was found in both those who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms and also those who do not experience GERD symptoms.

For a more information on the study, please refer to the following two articles:

“Visceral abdominal obesity measured by CT scan is associated with an increased risk of Barrett’s oesophagus: a case-control study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

“Visceral adipose tissue increased risk for Barrett’s esophagus.” Healio Gastroenterology

*“Barrett’s esophagus.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine 


Is your heartburn affecting your sleep?

February 11, 2014

Suffering from heartburn, whether be it during the day or at night, is an annoyance that many Americans cope with, some on a daily basis. An alarming 60 million Americans experience it at least once a month and 25 million Americans suffer from heartburn every day. When heartburn is this frequent or severe, people may be diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, more commonly known as GERD.

The United States National Library of Medicine defines GERD as “a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach).” This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle between the esophagus and stomach, becomes damaged or weakened.

If not properly treated, long-term sufferers of GERD can develop serious medical conditions, which include chronic cough or hoarseness, esophagitis, bleeding, scarring or ulcers of the esophagus and Barrett’s esophagus, an abnormal change in the lining of the esophagus that can potentially raise the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

It is important to note that many patients who are diagnosed with GERD do not experience heartburn at all. Below are the most frequently reported symptoms of GERD:

• Heartburn (a symptom of acid reflux)
• Bad breath
• Burning or pain in the chest or throat
• Chronic cough
• Hoarseness or chronic sore throat
• Bitter taste in mouth
• Inflammation in the mouth and erosion of teeth
• Problems swallowing
• Asthma-like symptoms
• Excessive belching

GERD is amongst the most prevalent upper gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and most likely one of the most common disease diagnosed by Gastroenterologists across our nation.

For many, GERD does not just disrupt their daily routine, but their sleep as well. GERD sufferers who have trouble sleeping at night could also go on to experience other health problems such as insomnia, sleep apnea, sleepiness during the day and restless leg syndrome.

It is best to first speak to a gastroenterologist or a primary health care provider to see what options are available to treat GERD effectively. Below are some helpful tips in order to reduce GERD symptoms and enjoy a better night’s sleep.

• Eat smaller meals
• Chew food slowly and thoroughly
• Say upright after meals
• Avoid foods which trigger your GERD symptoms (fats, spicy foods, alcohol)
• Keep a food journal to track your “trigger foods”
• Try sleeping with your head elevated. Either with extra pillows or a wedge pillow
• Restrict your eating in the evening
• Do not eat or drink anything two hours before bedtime (with the exception of water for medications.)

Again, please consult your doctor if you are having problems sleeping at night or are experiencing frequent or severe heartburn.  These suggestions are intended for informational purposes only.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Sources:
National Sleep Foundation
WebMD
American College of Gastroenterology