GYears ago I was treated for a stomach ulcer and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) brought on by a hiatus hernia. I managed the condition by eating well and avoiding alcohol since then. But now, stress, poor sleeping, eating on the go and lots of coffee has brought it back. I have a burning pain in the centre of my ribcage, feel bloated and can only eat small amounts at a time. Since last suffering from the condition, drugs like Motilium are available over the counter. I was hoping to avoid going to
my GP, and just to treat myself until the pain subsides. However, I’ve heard that GORD can cause oesophageal cancer in later life if not treated properly. Should I be taking the problem more seriously? ORD occurs when acid that is normally contained in the stomach manages to flow upwards into the tube which carries food from the mouth to the stomach, the oesophagus. The lining of the stomach is designed to cope with an acidic environment but the lining of the oesophagus is not and it becomes irritated and inflamed leading to discomfort.
Symptoms include soreness or burning in the throat or chest, a sensation of acid coming back into the mouth or soreness in the upper abdomen. Symptoms commonly occur when lying or stooping and may be food related.
In a healthy individual, there is a band of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus that stays closed unless allowing the passage of food. This sphincter keeps acid in the stomach where it should be. If there is pressure in the abdomen, such as with pregnancy and obesity, the sheer pressure from the lower abdomen into the chest can push acid back up.
Over time acid can damage the lining of the oesophagus leading to erosion (Barrett’s oesophagus). This chronic irritation can permanently damage the lining of the oesophagus over time and can increase the risk of cancer of the lower part of the oesophagus. Those who have been diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus require regular surveillance to watch for changing potentially cancerous cells. Chronic gastric irritation can result in ulcers and potentially life-threatening bleeding into the gut. Chronic gastritis is also associated with the development of cancer of the stomach.
For adults, there are a number of over-the-counter remedies that may help neutralise or block acid in the stomach. If symptoms are occurring intermittently they are worth trying. However, those with prolonged symptoms (more than a month), anyone aged over 55, those experiencing