If you are battling with fibromyalgia syndrome then you are probably having to deal with a variety of unpleasant symptoms. From chronic muscle pain to migraines, fibromyalgia can be a debilitating illness, which makes it difficult to carry out even the most simple of tasks. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia also increases your risk for developing a number of associated conditions. One of the conditions, known as Gastrointestinal Esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a severe form of acid reflux. It can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms and may even exacerbate your fibromyalgia. Luckily, there are a number of effective treatments available to help eliminate GERD.
What is GERD?
GERD is a severe form of acid reflux, in which the food and acid contained in your stomach begin to back up into your esophagus. This causes uncomfortable symptoms, including heartburn, throat sensitivity, and chest pain. Similar to heartburn, GERD is very common throughout the United States, affecting between 5% and 7% of the population. Unlike heartburn, however, GERD can occur many times a week, and often produces symptoms on a daily basis. If left untreated, GERD can have a detrimental effect on your overall health, causing many severe complications.
What Causes GERD?
GERD is usually the result of a combination of factors, including lifestyle and physiological factors. The majority of GERD cases are the result of a problem with a sphincter located at the bottom of the esophagus. This sphincter, known as the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), helps to prevent any stomach contents or acid from rising back up into the esophagus. Sometimes, however, the LES becomes weakened, allowing food and acid to reflux into the esophagus. The LES can also experience periodic moments of relaxation (particularly overnight), allowing acid and food to reflux into your throat.
Other factors, including weight, diet, and overall health, can also contribute to GERD.
Whoï¿½s At Risk For GERD?
GERD is actually a very common disease, and affects men, women, and children of all ages. However, if you have fibromyalgia you are at particular risk for developing the disease. In fact, more than 60% of all fibromyalgia patients are also battling with GERD. Unfortunately, reasons for this remain unknown. Other risk factors for GERD include:
- being overweight or obese
- being a smoker
- drinking alcohol
- eating a diet rich in acidic, spicy, or fatty foods
What are the Symptoms of GERD?
GERD symptoms tend to be numerous, and become more severe as the illness develops. Symptoms of GERD include:
- chest pain
- chronic cough
- difficulty swallowing
- dry mouth
- vomiting blood
- weight loss
- nutritional deficiencies, like anemia
Complications of GERD
If left untreated, GERD can become very dangerous to your overall health. Prolonged exposure to acidic contents from the stomach can lead to the erosion of the esophagus and the enamel on your teeth. This can increase your risk for esophageal cancer and mouth diseases, like gingivitis. GERD can also increase your chances of developing an obstruction in your esophagus, known as a stricture.
Additionally, GERD impacts greatly on sleep patterns, which will only increase the severity of your fibromyalgia symptoms. In fact, GERD sufferers were found to wake up more frequently during the night and spent less time in deep sleep stages. This can lead to increased daytime fatigue.
Treatment of GERD
There are a variety of treatments available to help you control the symptoms of GERD. A combination of these treatments is usually recommended in order to ensure the best GERD relief.
Self treatment can go a long way to helping control the symptoms of GERD. In particular, following a GERD diet can help to eliminate heartburn and acid relux. Aim to avoid spicy or fatty foods, and try to eat smaller meals as opposed to large meals. This will help your stomach to digest foods more quickly. You should also try to avoid leaning over or lying down within three hours of any meal. This will prevent food and stomach acid from refluxing into your esophagus.
Severe GERD often requires some type of medical treatment to help control symptoms. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can both help to minimize symptoms and provide relief. There are two types of medications that are generally recommended:
- H2-Blockers: These medications aid in blocking the production of acid inside of your stomach. They are available at your local pharmacy under the names Zantac and Pepcid AC, or your health care provider can provide you with a prescription.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs prevent the release of acid into the stomach and esophagus. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription under the name Prilosec, Protonix, and Nexium.