GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It’s a condition of the digestive system that can be irritating and even painful, causing heartburn and indigestion. It can affect people of any age. Understanding what GERD is and knowing the symptoms to watch for can help seniors to manage symptoms and get care when needed.
GERD affects the ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES opens allowing food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. Then, it closes so that the food and stomach acid can’t get back into the esophagus. When a person has GERD, the LES is weak or opens when it shouldn’t, allowing the contents of the stomach to move back up into the esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD
-Heartburn is the most common sign of GERD. However, not all people with GERD experience heartburn.
Other symptoms include:
-Pain in the chest or upper abdomen.
-Difficult or painful swallowing.
-Degrading of tooth enamel.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help Manage GERD
Often doctors first recommend that people with GERD make lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms. The objective is to reduce the amount of reflux or to heal the damage done to the esophagus.
Lifestyle changes that may help include:
-Smaller Meals: Eating less at one time can reduce symptoms. In addition, eating at least two to three hours before bedtime may help prevent reflux during the night.
-Look for Triggers and Avoid Them: Certain foods can trigger GERD, but they are different for everyone. Some common triggers are caffeine, tomato sauce, chocolate, garlic, and fatty foods.
-Watch Weight: Excess weight places pressure on the stomach, pushing contents up toward the esophagus.
-Wear Loose Clothes: Tight fitting clothes squeeze the stomach.
-Don’t Sleep Lying Flat: Using a foam wedge or other method of elevating the head of the bed can help if GERD symptoms occur at night. Just be sure that the entire upper body is elevated and not just the neck and shoulders, which could make symptoms worse.
-Stop Smoking: Smoking causes the LES to be less effective.
If your parent suffers from GERD, a senior care provider can help them to manage the symptoms. Senior care providers can help family caregivers to watch for the foods that trigger their GERD symptoms. They can also prepare meals that avoid these foods and that reduce portion sizes to avoid overeating. Senior care providers can also ensure that your parent doesn’t eat too late at night and help them to set up the bed so that they do not lie flat.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering home health care in Bay Shore, NY, please contact the caring staff at Family First Home Companions.
Serving all of Long Island. Call today: (631) 319-3961
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