National GERD Awareness Week began in November, 1999, when it was added to the U.S. National Health Observances calendar. Throughout the year but especially during this time, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) encourages people who experience the symptoms of GERD (for example, heartburn, fluid flowing back up into the mouth, sensations of food sticking to the esophagus, and more) to seek treatment. We hope that if you’re a sufferer, a mere change in diet will do the trick. But for many, it’s not that easy.
GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and it affects approximately twenty percent of the population, to varying degrees per individual. So if you know someone, including yourself, who should avail themselves of some extra information, sit back and absorb what we’ve found out.
History of GERD Awareness Week
For over a century, doctors have known of the relationship between the backflow of food from the stomach into the esophagus and the pain associated with it that we call heartburn. It’s a rare individual who has never had that sick-feeling irritation after a meal and tried to figure out exactly what they ate so they could avoid that food in the future. Then again, there are those who love certain foods so much that they’re willing to put up with the heartburn afterwards, perhaps leaning on an over-the-counter medication to soothe the situation as it may.
But how did we get from there to the condition called GERD, and how did the week of recognition originate?
There is no known single cause of the disease. But medical professionals know that the reflux aspect of it happens when the muscle barrier between the esophagus and the stomach malfunctions or is otherwise overwhelmed. And doctors now distinguish between simple heartburn, which can afflict anyone occasionally, and the suite of symptoms associated with GERD, among which heartburn is just one.
So let’s get these in order while including a third related term, “acid reflux”: heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, which covers other symptoms such as regurgitation into the throat, etc.; acid reflux is a symptom of GERD, which also covers other symptoms such as wheezing in bed, etc.
We have it on good authority that it was the evolving nature of these digestive phenomena and their interrelation with each other, combined with the increasing numbers of suffering patients, that led the IFFGD to seek official recognition for GERD as a formidable foe.