GERD is a common disease, suffered by millions of Americans. It is more common in adults, but can be found in children and even infants. Many GERD sufferers do not even realize they have a disease, but in the long term, untreated GERD can cause very serious damage and has been linked to degradation of the tissues of the esophagus, leading to more serious diseases and even esophageal cancer.
GERD patients experience belching in a similar if slightly different manner. Usually, belching after meals is normal. However, if it is followed by regurgitation, the lower esophageal sphincter is not functioning properly, allowing bits of food and stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus. Belching is the movement of air up and out of the esophagus, and sometimes contents of the stomach go with the air.
Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of GERD and alerting your doctor immediately can go a long way towards avoiding adverse long term effects. Your doctor may be able to diagnose you better if you include three thing, timing: with meals or exercise; frequency: once per day, once per week, once per month; and duration: for 30 minutes or hours at a time. A list of symptoms is below, but remember that you can suffer from one symptoms or any combination of a few symptoms. Even if you only recognize some symptoms, it is best to record all symptoms you experience, even if you do not thing they are related.
- Chronic acid reflux, or heartburn: more than once a week for a few weeks in a row is considered chronic
- Regurgitation: sour liquid and/or small pieces of partially digested food present in the throat and mouth
- Chest pain, especially when it occurs after eating
- Chronic sore throat that does not go away with normal treatments
- Chronic low-grade cough or frequent clearing of the throat
- Belching after meals, sometimes preceding regurgitation
- Upper back pain, especially below the shoulder blade
- Tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing, or asthma-like symptoms
- Difficulty swallowing
Belching associated with GERD
Belching is the bodies natural response to excess gas or air in the stomach. Many foods, drinks, and activities can cause belching. If you feel your are belching often and would like to reduce belching, below are a list of things to try before assuming you have GERD:
- Drink and eat slowly: As you gulp down your food and beverages, you manage to gulp a lot of air. Chewing slowly and swallowing only once the food has been properly chewed will decrease the amount of excess air you swallow.
- Quit smoking: Smoke inhalation often leads to swallowing of air and smoke.
- Don’t chew gum or eat hard candies: Every time you swallow you usually swallow a little bit of air. The more you swallow, the more air you will swallow. Gum and candies, and hard cough drops, create saliva and cause you to swallow frequently.
- Avoid drinks with carbon dioxide: This may seem obvious, but beer and sodas with bubbles will increase the gases in your stomach, causing more frequent belching.
- Check your dentures to make sure they are correctly in place.
The other cause of belching associated with GERD is frequent swallowing. Because GERD sufferers often feel they have a sore throat or experience sensations of some-thing stuck in the throat of the throat closing, it is normal for patients with GERD to swallow often. This increase in swallowing can cause more air than normal to enter to the stomach, causing belching to occur to allow air to escape.
To treat any disease, it is important to first have an accurate diagnosis. As belching is a very common occurrence, and may not signify any disease, it can be hard to determine whether treatment is necessary. Therefore it is extremely important that you document any other symptoms, even those that seem unrelated.
Even if the belching is a symptoms of another condition, it is possible that it’s not GERD. Patients with dyspepsia also experience frequent belching as a symptom. If other symptoms are present, but are not enough to rule out enough diseases, your doctor may perform a test to determine the acidity of the stomach on a 24 hour basis. Although this involves monitoring and can be uncomfortable, it is one of the only certain ways to determine whether the patient is suffering from an overly acidic stomach, and overly alkaline stomach, or something else entirely.
To treat belching can involve some simple changes to diet and lifestyle, as indicated above. However, if you are diagnosed with GERD and belching is one of your symp-toms, it may be necessary to take further steps.
GERD is thought of as chronic acid reflux, or heartburn, and many people may try to treat it by taking antacids. The danger of this method is that the cause of GERD remains untreated, and the esophagus will continue to be exposed to highly acidic stomach contents. This can result in a change of the tissues and cells of the esophageal lining known as Barrett’s esophagus. This serious disease causes discomfort and difficulty eating, and a consistent percentage of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop esophageal cancer. The prognosis for esophageal cancer is particularly bleak, and most people only live approximately 18 months once diagnosed.
Tell your doctor if you are taking antacids more than once a week or once a week for a few weeks in a row. Early intervention can be the best way to avoid complications, and your doctor may be able to give you a list of foods and activities to avoid that will de-crease the frequency of GERD symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe medications that will help your esophagus heal while you attempt to identify triggers, whether they are dietary or related to certain activities.