If I'm not mistaken, gaping means it's open a bit more than normal - so a slilght hiatal hernia. Once a hiatal hernia starts there's typically no reversal. The problems that can result are movement of acid into the esophagus and development of irritation to the lining of that organ. Over time it can be very problematic. Make sure to talk with your doc.
The lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is responsible for preventing the backflow of stomach contents and for allowing food to easily pass through the esophagus while swallowing. According to The Mayo Clinic, the lower esophageal sphincter can occasionally become weak due to a chronic digestive disease called gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can be a major burden that causes heartburn, dysphagia, sore throat and acid reflux. Fortunately there are preventative methods such as lower esophageal sphincter exercises and medications that can help with your GERD.
.Prevention and Lifestyle
According to The Mayo Clinic, several different issues cause weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter due to GERD. However, some of these common risk factors are easy to control through prevention.
GERD is common in those who suffer from obesity. Surplus weight from obesity applies pressure on the abdomen and pushes on the stomach. Extra pressure on the stomach causes a back up of acid into the esophagus, which in turn weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. The Mayo Clinic suggests losing one to two pounds a week if you are overweight, or trying to maintain your weight if you are already healthy.
You should quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. According to The Mayo Clinic, smoking can also contribute to a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter. If you are a smoker, you should give up smoking to allow your LES muscle to heal and strengthen.
You should take care not to overeat or eat foods that commonly trigger GERD. Johns Hopkins suggests that spicy, acidic, and fatty foods along with chocolate, mints, and caffeine may trigger GERD. You should also avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime.
Tight clothing may contribute to GERD as well. You should not wear tight-fitting pants, belts, or other clothes that put pressure on your stomach.
Exercises and Treatment
Depending on the severity of your GERD, there may be lower esophageal sphincter exercises that can help strengthen the muscle and alleviate symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests that relaxation therapy may be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of GERD by easing anxiety. You should try using relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, meditation, and guided imagery to help alleviate symptoms of GERD. According to Johns Hopkins, progressive muscle relaxation is a beneficial digestive technique that utilizes slow and deep breathing while simultaneously relaxing and tensing the main muscle groups of the body. Guided imagery, autogenic training,and meditation may also in addition be beneficial for relieving some of the symptoms of GERD. By using these techniques to ease symptoms, you'll allow your LES muscle to properly heal and gain strength.
While implementing lifestyle changes and exercise techniques to manage symptoms, you may want to see your doctor for medications that can control your GERD during the healing process of the lower esophageal sphincter. The Mayo Clinic suggests initially trying over-the-counter solutions such as neutralizing antacids, acid reducers, or acid blockers. If over-the-counter solutions do not work, ask your doctor about prescription medications such as prescription strength Zantac, Nexium, or Prevacid. Surgery to strengthen the LES muscle is a last resort and is something you should discuss with your doctor if your GERD continues to get worse.
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