Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is on the rise worldwide. "The overall prevalence is increasing over the past decades," says the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. The increase has occurred not only in the United States, but in Asian countries, where GERD was unheard of. We are leading literally the world into GERD by sharing our dietary habits.
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. Scientists believe up to 20 percent of the population experiences symptoms once a week, and 7 percent have daily symptoms. Doctors consider people to be suffering from GERD if they experience persistent reflux, meaning at least twice a week.
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, according to the American College of Gastroenterology's guidelines for treating GERD. A small amount of weight gain (5 or 10 pounds) produces an increase in reflux symptoms. Excess weight can press on the stomach, forcing acid past the valve into the esophagus. 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 to the increasing pressure on the stomach,
Most experts agree that lifestyle changes can usually reduce the possibility of reflux. If you need assistance with Reflux, try our self-help Reverse Reflux Action Plan or make an appointment with Bonnie Minsky.