Who would have thought that the simple pleasure of eating food that you relish could lead to nightmarish problems, making you stay up nights when you would rather sleep! Acidity – Causes you burning, even Pain, in the abdomen [especially upper part]; Nausea; maybe vomiting; and, maybe Trouble in Swallowing your Food. At that point of time, you might feel heartburn – nothing to do with love or love lost – so, the pain in your chest is not related to a heart attack.
By a strange paradox, it is only with the help of stomach acid that the stomach can empty its contents into the intestines; if sufficient amount of acid is not present, the contents are pushed back into the esophagus, where they cause Acidity – burning, pain and maybe inflammation – in short, Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease [GERD].
Dyspepsia [Indigestion] also reflects some of these symptoms, which can be linked to the presence of a stomach ulcer. Then, there are Peptic Ulcers, which could be because of a bile/pancreatic reflux, cause pain and burning in the upper abdomen, and copious vomiting [even blood may appear in vomit] and loss of appetite/weight. The symptoms are similar as in Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome [ZES] though this is a rare disease that reveals itself in the form of one or more tumors in the pancreas, duodenum or both, but persons suffering from ZES could experience diarrhea and loss of weight also.
While at the extreme end, surgery could help, in solving some of the problems those having Peptic Ulcers or ZES, there is a simple answer – Esomeprazole, which is a proton pump inhibitor [PPI] – for all these ailments. Esomeprazole reduces the gastric acid secretion by inhibiting the functioning of the enzyme that produces this acid in our bodies. This PPI is available in capsule formulations of 20mg and 40mg. Take the medicine as prescribed, with food, or on an empty stomach. The tablet has to be swallowed whole, but if the doctor permits, you can sprinkle the contents in half a glass of water, drink it at once and down it with another half a glass of water to make sure the entire dose has been consumed. For those who want to take it with food, the granules of the capsule can be mixed with soft food [cold applesauce or yogurt] and swallowed immediately.
The doctor will want to know your medical history, all medications you are taking, the drugs you are allergic to, and, especially if you have suffered from any serious liver or stomach-related problems. The side effects of this PPI could be headache, diarrhea, nausea, gas, stomach pain, constipation, or dryness in the mouth. If you experience any unlikely side effects such as severe stomach/abdominal pain/tenderness, vomit that looks like grounded coffee, dark/black stools, numbness/tingling sensation in the hands/feet, rash, swelling, uneasy breathing, chest pain, then immediate medical attention will be necessary. Pregnant women or nursing mothers have to check the risks and benefits of this drug with their doctor before they proceed to take it.
It is difficult to detect GERD in infants or children; especially babies, who burp/hiccup frequently, have excessive possetting/vomiting/dribbling/ running nose, loose stools, foul smelling breath and diapers. Babies usually outgrow GERD by the end of their first year, but if the problem continues, it could very well be GERD. Burping is encouraged in infants several times during feeding, and it helps to hold the baby upright for half an hour after a feed. For older children, small meals can be given at frequent intervals to avoid GERD.
What adults have to give up to get over acidity-related problems includes their daily smoke – cigarette smoking is out, try to wear loose-fitting clothes, and sleep by keeping your head raised by adding 6-8 inches by attaching woodblocks under the head section of your bed. Doctors also tell such patients to avoid citrus fruits/juices, tomatoes, vinegar, spicy/fried/fatty foods and sodas. Meals should be taken at least 2-3 hours before sleeping, so that the food travels down easily in the body. Hot beverages just before retiring are a ‘No-No’. And you have to bid farewell to that delicious peppermint and your favorite brands of chocolates!
The dosage and length of treatment depend upon the patient’s response to it, but once it has been prescribed, the full course has to be taken even if a person starts feeling better midway. Try not to miss your dose, but don’t double it either. The medicine has to be stored at room temperature, away from moisture, heat and light, children and pets; not to be shared with anyone.