Obesity and the negative medical consequences of that condition are on the rise in the United States. High blood pressure, cardiac issues, cholesterol issues, and Type 2 diabetes are the medical conditions typically associated with obesity. Now researchers are associating GERD with being overweight. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is 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 action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.
When you eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus (also called the food pipe or swallowing tube). Once food is in the stomach, a ring of muscle fibers prevents food from moving backward into the esophagus. These muscle fibers are called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES.
If this sphincter muscle doesn’t close well, food, liquid, and stomach acid can leak back into the esophagus. This is called reflux or gastro esophageal reflux. Reflux may cause symptoms, or it can even damage the esophagus.
The risk factors for reflux include:
Hiatal hernia (a condition in which part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities)
Heartburn and gastro esophageal reflux can be brought on or made worse by pregnancy and many different medications. Such drugs include:
Anticholinergics (e.g., for seasickness)
Beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart disease
Bronchodilators for asthma
Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure
Dopamine-active drugs for Parkinson’s disease
Progestin for abnormal menstrual bleeding or birth control
Sedatives for insomnia or anxiety
Even a small amount of exercise can positively change the side effects of GERD. Make plans and mark your calendar to do at least 30 minutes of activity 4-5 days per week. It can mean walking, weight training, yoga, mall-walking, dancing, or any activity that involves movement and raising your heart rate to burn calories.
If weight issues are overwhelming to you, utilize apps for your phone, counseling programs such as Weight Watchers or check in daily here at Paula’s Healthy Living for tips to empower you to change the way that you eat. I highly recommend using a food scale and food/exercise diary to monitor your efforts. Write to me anytime via the webpage for support and ideas. We are a community here, and want to help each other.