I recently coordinated an interview between Oakwood Dr. Richard Grucz and a journalist with Michigan Senior Living Magazine about a health issue that many people experience--particularly those in the aging population.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is a condition that can take the joy out of two of my favorite activities (eating and sleeping), so I paid particular attention to the conversation.
For those that don't know, GERD is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus. Acid Reflux is a symptom of that condition. The terms are frequently used interchangeably. It is typically experienced by older people, although others can be afflicted with it, too.
"As we age, we gain a little more abdominal girth; obesity is one of the risk factors," Grucz said.
The reason that obesity can cause--or exacerbate--the condition is relatively simple: more weight around your middle means more weight, and pressure, on your stomach.
Common symptoms include: heartburn, or a burning sensation beneath your breastbone that is worse when you bend over or lay down; nausea or difficulty swallowing.
It can also manifest itself as a cough or a wheeze, hiccups or a sore throat. There are over-the-counter aids available, everything from typical antacids to longer term Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs, which decrease the amount of acid produced in your stomach).
In the meantime, here are some simple tips:
- Lose weight; sometimes even a few pounds is enough to reduce the stress on your stomach.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee and carbonate beverages--particularly before trying to sleep.
- Stop smoking!
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.take acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) for pain and fever relief, rather than aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve).
- Elevate your upper body when you sleep to avoid additional pressure on your stomach.
When ignored, GERD can cause long-term complications. Grucz, like most doctors, recommends lifestyle changes over medication.
"Obviously, I try to get people off medication as quickly as possible," he said.
For more tips and info, check out the October issue of Michigan Senior Living Magazine, which is affiliated with the Detroit News and Free Press.