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每日跟讀#695: For GERD’s sake, go and see the doctor

胃食道逆流「火燒心」 醫:勿被廣告誤導應對症下藥

· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日跟讀#695: For GERD’s sake, go and see the doctor

A 16-year-old from Yilan often complained of heartburn, a feeling of having a lump in the throat and general sense of being unwell, and also experienced problems sleeping and difficulty concentrating on their studies. Their parents took them to hospital, believing the cause to be heart disease, but doctors discovered that it was actually gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and were able to prescribe medicine to treat it.


One in four people in Taiwan suffer from GERD, and clinically speaking it can occur at any age. Many people assume, incorrectly, from adverts that GERD is caused because of excessive amounts of stomach acid, and think they can control it by taking stomach medicine. In fact, over-reliance on over-the-counter medicines can lead to reoccurrence of the symptoms.


In addition to excessive stomach acid, other causes of GERD include a weak lower esophageal sphincter or diaphragm, which relax at times they are not normally supposed to, delayed emptying of the stomach — indigestion — or a sensitive esophagus. In the case of the latter, stomach acid can flow back dozens of times a day, which doesn’t pose a problem to a healthy esophagus, but with a sensitive tract the acid can damage the esophageal lining, leading to discomfort.


Typical symptoms of GERD include heartburn, a feeling of having a lump — or foreign body — in the throat, the sense of having acid in the larynx or mouth and a tight chest; atypical symptoms include chest pains, a dry cough and asthma.


If the symptoms of GERD are ignored and the esophageal mucous membrane allowed to be damaged, over time this can increase the chances of the problem developing into Barrett’s esophagus or cancer of the esophagus. By treating it with GERD medication and changing one’s lifestyle, it is possible to keep GERD under control. This means reducing sources of stress and avoiding eating or drinking to excess or having meals at irregular times, and also controlling your intake of coffee, sugary and fried foods and foods with too much butter. At the same time, you should watch your weight and avoid eating late in the evening and, if any of the symptoms of GERD present, get them checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, so that the problem can be treated in time.


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