Last updated Jan. 16, 2019
There are several diseases that affect the human digestive system and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of such.
The condition can bring a lot of discomfort through the two major symptoms it shows: regurgitation of stomach content into the oesophagus and the accompanying burning sensation referred to as heartburn.
While heartburn can be experienced by a healthy individual after consuming certain food, it is quite abnormal to have acid reflux over and over again. When it becomes frequent, it is advisable to seek medical help as it can be a case of GERD.
In patients that have gastroesophageal reflux disease, there is an anomaly in the sphincter muscle that separates the oesophagus and the stomach.
Ideally, the muscle is very strong and opens only to let food pass from the oesophagus into the stomach and closes to keep the food from moving back up.
When the muscle is weakened, it becomes unable to keep the stomach content from moving back up into the oesophagus.
When the content of the stomach move into the oesophagus, they can cause lots of discomfort. Since the stomach content is mostly acidic, it will cause the burning feeling that we commonly refer to as heartburn.
Aside from the fact that acid reflux can be very discomforting, the major concern should be the fact that it can lead to something more serious when it is not treated as early as possible.
Cancer is the commonest complication that can result from untreated GERD.
The oesophagus of every adult human has a certain condition that is ideal for it. It is not used to acids and can never get used to them.
When acidic contents from the stomach keeps creeping into the oesophagus, the pipe-like organ can get inflamed and this will result to a condition known as Esophagitis.
This condition, in turn, can transform into what is termed Barret’s oesophagus, which is a precancerous condition. Over time, this will result to adecocarcinoma, which is a type of cancer.
As we all know, cancer is a deadly condition that is always difficult (if not impossible) to treat. The best way to handle this, therefore, is to prevent the onset of oesophageal cancer at the first place.
Anyone that has an idea of how cancer cells develop and affect normal cells will do everything possible to prevent it. It is quite unfortunate that in the last few decades there has been more cases oesophageal cancer.
The rate of increase in some countries like the U.S. is actually greater than the rate of increase in other kinds of cancers like breast, melanoma, and prostate cancer.
The reason for this is not farfetched, people are suffering acid reflux more and this is due to our feeding habit.
There has been much talk about the need to change feeding habits, but several individuals don’t take this serious until they develop serious health challenges.
The type of food we eat significantly affect the amount of acids that find their way into the oesophagus. Generally, fatty foods are known to contribute more to acid reflux. High fibre foods, on the other hand, have been found to be helpful.
The link between high fat intake and GERD is understandable. Fatty contents have direct effect on the sphincter. It causes the ring of muscles to relax and when this happens, more contents from the stomach (always acidic) creep up into the oesophagus.
When this continuous, it is certain that erosive esophagitis will set in and it will only be a matter of time before cancer can set in too.
There has been studies to determine how much fatty foods influence the amount of acids in the oesophagus and the results have been overwhelmingly consistent with what experts have been saying.
Individuals that eat more fatty foods have more acids in their oesophagus and are, therefore, more likely to suffer GERD and the accompanying complications.
There has also been some scientific enquiries into how Barrett’s oesophagus progresses into oesophageal cancer. Diets were also considered for their impact and all the studies associated meat and high fat meals with increased cancer risks.
The findings showed that different meats have different ways they influenced cancer formation and the location too.
Red meats, for instance, were found to encourage cancer in the oesophagus while poultry were found to encourage cancer at the top of the stomach. Protein-rich plants like beans and nuts were associated with decreased risk of cancer.
For foods that are believed to reduce the risk of oesophageal cancer, those that contain antioxidant were found to be helpful. Individuals taking enough of such foods (fruits and vegetables mostly) were found to have half the odds of oesophageal cancer.
From the findings of different researchers, it appears that the best foods to take for protection are red-orange fruits, dark green vegetables, apples, berries, and pear.
While it is safe to say that plant products help to reduce the risk, it appears that the benefits were generally due to eating healthy meals and cutting down on fats.
It is also a little surprising that antioxidant vitamin supplements like Vitamin C and E did not show any sign of reducing the risk.
In a certain study involving as much as 3,000 people, it was found that egg yolks can increase the amount of the hormone cholecystokinin, which influences the relaxation of the sphincter. This same hormone is also increased by the consumption of meat.
This is another evidence that food from plant sources are definitely better for digestive health and in the prevention of oesophageal cancer.
In all the studies that have been conducted to determine how meat influences the formation of oesophageal cancer, the link have been confirmed.
Individuals that eat meat have twice the odds of reflux-induced oesophageal inflammation. Plant materials, on the other hand, may offer protection against the condition.
An increased intake of fruits and veggies and a reduction in the amount of meat and fatty foods consumed will be very helpful in managing acid reflux and preventing such complications as oesophageal cancer.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may not sound like the most terrible digestive problem but it can be aggravated if proper treatment is not offered. Even at the initial state, it can cause a lot of discomfort.
Having acidic contents entering the oesophagus as a result of the relaxation of the sphincter muscle will make you so uncomfortable. In its mildest form, it causes sour taste in the mouth but mostly, heartburn is the major symptom.
That burning feeling can be quite painful but that is not the end. With time, the acids creeping into the oesophagus will do more damage by causing a condition known as erosive esophagitis which can transform into Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer.
There is a good news, however: GERD is preventable. There are several lifestyle changes you can adopt today to prevent the condition, and minding your diet is one of the best ways to achieve that.
Reducing your fat intake is definitely one of the best steps you can take today for a healthier life.
You can also avoid other types of foods that are known to cause acid reflux such as spicy foods; acidic foods like citrus, mint, onions, chocolate, coffee or other caffeine-rich products; and carbonated beverages.
You may also have to quite other unhealthy lifestyles like excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
In addition to avoiding the things that can cause acid reflux, you can also take to things that can protect you. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and fibre can be very helpful.
Visit a Gastroenterologist in San Antonio if things don't seem to improve. It is wise to get expert advice from your doctor to avoid future complications.
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