If you have repeated indigestion or acid reflux, you may be at risk of developing gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). This is a general term, used to describe acid reflux, either with or without inflammation of the gullet (oesophagus). In it, the corrosive acid our stomach produces to break down food moves up to the oesophagus (the food pipe), where the lining is much more sensitive and so can get damaged over time.
If you have GORD you typically experience heartburn, where you may feel a gnawing or burning pain in your central chest that moves up to the throat after eating. While you may have suffered indigestion before, symptoms with GORD may be much more easily triggered, more severe, and last longer after eating or drinking. It can also be the case that the usual treatments you have used before and which worked well may no longer be effective.
Regular acid reflux is more common in smokers, pregnant women, heavy drinkers, the overweight or obese and people aged between 35 and 65 years old.
GORD is diagnosed on endoscopy (or gastroscopy), a test where a small flexible camera tube is passed down your throat to view the oesophagus and stomach, and possibly into the small bowel. You’re awake throughout but are given medication to help you relax. It sounds awful, but it’s a common test, and well-tolerated by most.
Tissue samples or biopsies may be taken, and tests run for a bacteria called H Pylori, which can increase acid production. The team will look for any damage to the lining or stomach ulcers.
Your doctor may organise an endoscopy or refer you to a specialist team who then organise it.
##How is it diagnosed?
Many cases of GORD are diagnosed from the history and do not require any specialised tests. If these are required then it is diagnosed on endoscopy (or gastroscopy), a test where a small flexible camera tube is passed down your throat to view the oesophagus and stomach, and possibly into the small bowel. You’re awake throughout but are given medication to help you relax. It is a very common procedure that is usually well-tolerated by most people who have it done.
Tissue samples or biopsies may be taken at the time, and tested for bacteria (a germ) called H Pylori, which can increase acid production. The team will also look for any damage to the lining or stomach ulcers.
Your doctor may organise an endoscopy or refer you to a specialist team who then arrange it.
GORD has the same risk factors as for acid reflux and heartburn, including obesity, pregnancy, alcohol, smoking, spicy or oily foods, large meals, and caffeinated or fizzy drinks, or if you have a hiatus hernia.
GORD has a tendency to run in families, so if this is the case for you, you should take care to address any diet or lifestyle factors that can prevent it, and seek help early if symptoms develop.
Certain drugs may affect the proper functioning of the oesophagus to neutralise stomach acid, such as tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline, or antipsychotics. Other drugs can increase acid production, like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, or steroid tablets, if taken for more than a short time.
Neurological conditions such as diabetic neuropathy from uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, or a skin condition called systemic sclerosis can put you at risk.
We have shortlisted a range of treatments that you can try in the short term.
Gaviscon Liquid is a good first option, as it can provide quick relief and does not interact with most medicines. As an antacid, it works to neutralise acidity, which soothes the upper gastric area quickly, and it forms a protective coating to prevent further acid reflux throughout the day. Gaviscon Advance tablets can also be helpful.
Low-dose proton pump inhibitors are available to buy, such as esomeprazole as in Nexium Control, or H2-receptor antagonists, such as Zantac. These work in a different way to reduce the amount of acid produced – they don’t have an immediate effect but once working, they provide longer-lasting relief. Nexium Control can provide up to 24 hours relief plus protection for the gut lining. Gaviscon Advance or other alginate antacids can be used alongside these acid suppression medications.
If there is no improvement, or the constant need to neutralise acid symptoms remains then speak to your doctor.
If acid reflux treatments from your pharmacist or doctor have not helped after a couple of months, and your doctor has either ruled out or treated the bacteria H Pylori, you should book to see them again so they can review your symptoms and consider if you need further tests like an endoscopy.
You should book an urgent appointment if you have difficulty swallowing or a sensation of something blocking the windpipe. Your doctor would also want to see you urgently if you have any sign of bleeding from the gut lining, including vomiting blood or a brown substance that looks like ground coffee, if you have black stools, severe abdominal pain or if you are losing weight for no obvious reason.
Read about: Dyspepsia
Read about: Heartburn
Read about: Heartburn in pregnancy
Read about: Indigestion
Read about: Gastritis
Read about: H Pylori
Read about: bloating
Read about: Stomach ulcer
Was this helpful?
Was this helpful?