This month I am going to discuss another very important topic for truck drivers, Gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD), which is commonly known as acid reflux. Due to your lifestyles on the road, tru...
This month I am going to discuss another very important topic for truck drivers, Gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD), which is commonly known as acid reflux. Due to your lifestyles on the road, truck drivers are at an increased risk of developing GERD. In fact, I am sure that you either have been diagnosed with GERD or know a truck driver that has it. GERD is a condition in which acidic stomach juices are regurgitated into the esophagus (the tube leading from the throat down to the stomach), causing pain in the upper abdomen and chest. The lining in the esophagus does not have adequate defense against harmful effects of stomach acid, which causes inflammation and a burning pain known as heart burn.
In most cases, GERD attacks are very brief and relatively mild. However, if they are persistent the lining of the esophagus may be permanently damaged or scarred.
Our bodies are designed to trap digestive acid in our stomachs. When we swallow, a ring of muscle in the esophagus serves as a one-way valve. It opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and then quickly closes to keep the acids in.
Sometimes the valve relaxes or weakens, allowing stomach acid to be regurgitated back into the esophagus creating a burning sensation or heartburn. Heartburn can last as long as two hours, and is often worse after eating and when lying down.
There are a variety of things that contribute to the severity and frequency of which GERD is experienced. These include the ability of the esophageal valve to open and close properly, the type and amount of stomach juices that back up into the esophagus, the ability of the stomach to empty properly, and the acid-neutralizing effect of saliva.
Other risk factors include increased abdominal pressure due to pregnancy and obesity or a weakness in the hiatus that allows part of the stomach to slide into the chest (hiatus hernia). Many people develop mild attacks of GERD after eating certain foods or drinks. Smoking may also worsen symptoms. To add to this, researchers believe that a genetic link predisposes some people to GERD.
The main symptoms of GERD are usually noticeable immediately after eating a large meal or when bending forward. They may include: Burning pain or discomfort in the chest behind the breastbone, known as heartburn; acidic taste in the mouth due to the regurgitation of acidic fluid into the throat or mouth; persistent coughing; belching; nausea; or blood in the vomit or feces.
GERD that persists over many years can cause scarring in the esophagus, which may eventually be severe enough to cause a stricture (narrowing), making it difficult to swallow. Chronic GERD may lead to conditions such as ulcers and Barrett’s esophagus, in which part of the esophageal lining is replaced by the stomach lining.
In most cases, your physician will be able to diagnose GERD based on the symptoms you are experiencing. However, more detailed testing may be required to determine the degree of damage, as well as rule out other serious conditions. The good news is that 80% of patients who experience acid reflux are treated effectively with dietary changes and commonly prescribed medications.
The following are some simple tips that will relieve the symptoms of GERD or prevent them from re-occurring: Take antacids to help neutralize stomach acids; avoid spicy, acidic, tomato-based foods and high fat foods such as chocolate and cream; avoid alcohol, pop and coffee; lose weight; eat smaller amounts of food to avoid overfilling the stomach and do not eat late at night;
If you have been experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is best to consult with your health care provider immediately. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
– Dr. Christopher Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 888-252-7327.