Navigation Links
Chronic Heartburn a Growing Problem in U.S.
Date:1/5/2012

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Heartburn and acid reflux strike many people as an annoying and painful but ultimately harmless problem -- a result of overindulgence and gluttony that must be endured, much like a hangover after a night of drinking.

But frequent bouts of heartburn and reflux constitute a real medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and GERD is on the rise worldwide.

"The overall prevalence is increasing over the past decades," said Dr. Ronnie Fass, a medical advisory board member for the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders who's also a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and chief of gastroenterology at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.

The increase has occurred "not only in the United States, but in Asian countries, where GERD was unheard of," Fass said. "But we are the trailblazers. We are leading the world."

If left untreated, GERD can lead to bleeding or ulcers in the esophagus, a buildup of scar tissue that makes swallowing difficult and, in extreme cases, esophageal cancer, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"People consider heartburn part of the eating experience," Fass said. "They have to understand the presence of heartburn denotes a real medical problem."

Frequent reflux or heartburn are apparently a regular occurrence for Americans. "We believe up to 20 percent of the population experiences symptoms once a week, and 7 percent have daily symptoms," he said.

Heartburn and acid reflux occur when acidic digestive juices from the stomach get past a ring of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve separating the stomach from the esophagus.

People experience heartburn when the digestive juices eat away at the lining of the esophagus. Sometimes the acid refluxes all the way up through the esophagus to the mouth, causing people to taste digestive juices or food in the back of their mouth.

Doctors consider people to be suffering from GERD if they experience persistent reflux, meaning at least twice a week, according to the NIH. Anyone at any age can have GERD, although symptoms tend to be different for children 12 and younger, who may have asthma-like symptoms, a dry cough or difficulty swallowing.

Most of the time, GERD stems from one of two causes -- what you eat and how much you weigh -- but excessive weight is the most prominent, said Dr. Kenneth R. DeVault, chairman of the gastroenterology department at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology's guidelines for treating GERD.

"The most consistent factor is probably weight gain and obesity," DeVault said. "It's become pretty clear that a small amount of weight gain produces an increase in reflux symptoms. I'm not talking a large amount; I'm talking about 5 or 10 pounds, probably. Even if you're already overweight, increasing your weight will increase your risk of reflux over the next several months."

Excess weight can press on the stomach, forcing acid past the valve into the esophagus. And, as Fass explained, the problem isn't just the belly flab evident on people who are obese or overweight. Rather, the accumulation of fat around the organs inside the body contributes by increasing pressure on the stomach, making reflux much more likely to occur, he said.

GERD also can be caused, or exacerbated, by a person's diet. But foods contribute to reflux in different ways.

Caffeine, for example, has been shown to relax the esophageal sphincter, increasing the chances of reflux, DeVault said.

Eating fatty foods can also contribute to reflux because fats slow the emptying of the stomach, meaning "there's more material left in the stomach that can be refluxed," he said.

Acidic, spicy or strongly flavored foods also can contribute to reflux by increasing the amount of acid in the stomach, according to the NIH. Citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes, mint, garlic, onions and chocolate are among the main offenders.

Also, lifestyle changes can usually reduce the possibility of reflux, the two experts said. These include:

  • Making a concerted effort to lose weight, by exercising and adopting a healthy diet.
  • Learning which foods are more likely to trigger excess acid or reflux, and then avoiding them.
  • Eating the final meal of the day two to three hours before bedtime, thus reducing the amount of food in the stomach that would press against the esophageal valve.
  • Elevating the head of the bed, if nighttime reflux is a problem, as this can reduce the pressure of stomach acid and contents on the valve.

If reflux symptoms persist, however, DeVault stressed that more needs to be done to avoid damage to the esophagus.

"If they have frequent heartburn symptoms, more than weekly, and have had it for many years, they need to see a physician," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on GERD.

For more on the effects of GERD, read about one woman's story.

SOURCES: Ronnie Fass, M.D., professor, medicine, University of Arizona, and chief, gastroenterology, Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Tucson, Ariz.; Kenneth R. DeVault, M.D., chairman, gastroenterology, Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Journal Retracts Faulty Chronic Fatigue Study
2. Chronic School Absenteeism Linked to Mental Health Problems
3. NYU study concludes that dentists could screen 20 million Americans for chronic physical illnesses
4. Pep talk can revive immune cells exhausted by chronic viral infection
5. Major cause of chronic kidney disease-related inflammation is identified
6. Chronic Fatigue Tied to Extended School Absences
7. B cell receptor inhibitor causes chronic lymphocytic leukemia remission
8. Chronic pain in children and adolescents becoming more common
9. Scientists identify strategies to conquer lifestyle and genetic factors related to chronic diseases
10. Opioids May Be Overused for Chronic Stomach Pain
11. New report: Community health plans improving care for patients with chronic illnesses
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Chronic Heartburn a Growing Problem in U.S.
(Date:2/13/2016)... ... ... Cypress in Sun City is the place to be on March 3rd to learn about ... will be hosting this educational seminar from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Exciting advancements will ... offers. In addition, prizes will be given away and light refreshments will be served. ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... ... February 13, 2016 , ... ... Voices of Recovery, the leading national organization representing the growing community of recovering ... public office to include Family Recovery in policies addressing addiction. , Although ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... ... February 13, 2016 , ... With FCPX Overlay Embers from ... all within Final Cut Pro X. Each user can select from up to 40 ... of view, blur, focus offset, hue, saturation, value, contrast, glow, and more all within ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... , ... February 13, 2016 , ... ... Nurses Society (INS) states that vein visualization technology should be used to ensure ... facilities around the world, the INS Standards mandate the use of vein visualization ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... ... 2016 , ... When an Au Pair comes all the way around the world ... for and they are often worried things won’t go well. More often than not, however, ... Au Pair of the Year winner’s all commented how their Au Pairs have become a ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/12/2016)... Calif. , Feb. 12, 2016  SI-BONE, Inc., a medical ... ® ("iFuse"), a minimally invasive surgical (MIS) device indicated for ... National Government Services, Inc. (NGS), the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) covering ... , Maine , Massachusetts ... , New York , Rhode Island ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... , Feb. 12, 2016  Sequent Medical, Inc. ... a study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of ... treatment of ruptured intracranial aneurysms.  Prof Laurent Spelle ... in Paris, France and Principal ... France and Germany.  Although ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... , Feb. 12, 2016  Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: ... decided the Alimta® (pemetrexed disodium) vitamin regimen patent would not ... UK, France , Italy ... dilute the product only with dextrose solution.  ... the UK Court of Appeal held that Lilly,s patent would ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: