What is GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux, also referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is when the contents of the stomach are returned to the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach. The LES will normally open to allow food into the stomach and close to prevent it from returning to the esophagus. GERD occurs when the LES is weak or relaxed, and the contents of the stomach return to the esophagus. The severity of GERD is contingent on the level of LES dysfunction.
The Causes of GERD
Factors that contribute to GERD are hiatal hernia, cigarette smoking, and pregnancy. Diet is also an important factor. Foods and beverages such as chocolate, fried foods or fatty foods, coffee, and alcohol contribute to GERD. Obesity can also be responsible for GERD.
Obesity and GERD
As noted by Texas GERD Institute, several studies have discovered that excess weight nearly doubles the possibility for GERD symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation of acid, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Those people who are obese are about three times more likely than normal weight individuals to develop esophageal cancer.
A more recent study cited by Texas GERD Institute maintains that obese people can be up to six times more likely than normal weight people to have gastroesophogeal reflux.
Overweight, pre-menopausal women who have had hormone therapy have the strongest link.
Nearly two-thirds of America adults are currently overweight, and esophageal cancer has quadrupled in the last twenty years while an estimated 20% of American adults have GERD.
GERD as a Phenomenon Beyond the United States
Obesity is a problem that has spread well beyond the United States.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Eivind Ness-Jensen at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Levanger maintain that GERD has risen in Norway by almost 50% in the last ten years. Ness-Jensen specifies esophageal cancer as a point of concern. The incidence of this cancer is increasing and may continue to rise. Ness-Jensen points out that there are very few treatments for this type of cancer and that the prognosis is quite poor.
There is universal agreement that poor diet and obesity are the culprits responsible for the rise in GERD. There is much evidence to support the contention that losing weight will improve the situation. Many people are not aware that gastric bypass surgery nearly cures GERD.
Gastric Bypass Surgery as a Relief for GERD Among Obese Patients
Research conducted by Dr. Fernando Fornari of the University of Passo Fundo shows that gastric bypass surgery successfully alleviated GERD in most of the 86 obese patients who were evaluated. Substantial improvements in heartburn symptoms were also noted.
The patients in the study were evaluated before gastric bypass surgery was performed as well as 6 months after the gastric bypass surgery had been done.
Of the forty-nine patients who had reflux syndrome prior to gastric bypass surgery, thirty-nine were symptom free within six months after weight-loss surgery.