Adult GERD: What I have learned so far.
I don't have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) but I have raised two children with GERD. In addition, I have talked with hundreds of parents of children with GERD, offering support and guidance. That is why I call myself the Reflux Mom.
I do talk with quite a few adults with GERD too. When I tell people that I write a blog about GERD, I often hear, "Oh, I have GERD too." Or, "My ____ (husband/wife/relative) has GERD". So I hear a lot of stories from adults about their experiences and get asked a lot of questions too. I noticed that the new "Ask a Question" feature on the HealthCentral website has generated quite a number of messages from adults. So, I want to let you know what I have learned so far about adult GERD.
Other Health Conditions
While children with GERD often just have GERD or perhaps GERD and asthma, adults with GERD tend to have several health conditions. I hear about heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and all of the other conditions that come with "growing up".
All of the Doctors
Often this leads to a whole team of doctors and specialists. Not only do you have a general practitioner but you have a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, a gastroenterologist, a pulmonologist and maybe even a psychologist.
It is important to ask one doctor, often the primary care doctor to help you coordinate your care, especially when a lot of specialists are involved in your care. The primary care doctor can look at all of the pieces of information and figure out a treatment plan to balance all of the needs.
It is vitally important to tell each and every doctor about your other health conditions and all of the treatments that have been recommended such as medication, special diet and even over the counter medications.
All of the Medications
Before you know it, all of the doctors end up recommending tests and treatments and stacks of prescriptions. You go to the pharmacy and pick up bottles and bubble packets of medicine and line them up on the counter in your kitchen. If you read the fine print on the label, I bet one or more of the medications to treat another condition cause stomach irritation or an upset stomach. You and your primary care doctor need to look at all of the medications and see if these medications are contributing to the GERD symptoms. Hopefully, there is an alternate treatment or medication to try. Unfortunately, there may not be an alternate medication to use. Some adults end up taking reflux medication to decrease the side effect of a necessary medication.
While babies maintain a pretty sensible lifestyle with 1-2 naps a day, an attentive caretaker for any need, frequent rides in strollers on pleasant days and wholesome, nutritious meals, adults are a bit different. A balanced meal may consist of a toaster pastry and coffee while driving in rush hour traffic followed by a 12 hour day on a stressful job with a demanding boss. In addition, adults have pretty diverse lifestyles including one or more of the following: stress, alcohol, drugs, poor diet, minimal sleep, lack of exercise and obesity/overweight. While a healthy lifestyle may not cure GERD, it may greatly decrease the need for medication and help you control other health conditions. Before you complain to the doctor that the reflux medication isn't working, have a frank conversation with your doctor about the role of the other lifestyle factors that may be triggering or worsening your reflux. I know this is a sensitive topic. I would be in a really bad mood if I couldn't have my cup of coffee each morning. I would bargain with the doctor, try decaf or one of the low acid brands. Maybe I would stop drinking coffee and get control of the symptoms before reintroducing it. We all have our favorite foods and habits that feel right to us. Take it slowly so your brain and your body can get used to new routines.