GERD and Barrett’s esophagus patients have sleep apnea

It has been shown that gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and Barrett’s esophagus (BE) patients have higher rates of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and poor sleep quality. Studies found that about 20 percent of Americans suffer from GERD, which is chronic heartburn or acid regurgitation. These studies have looked at the relationship between GERD and poor quality of sleep. From this they found that on average, these patients have worse sleep and overall low quality of sleep.

What is the connection?

GERD may contribute to sleep apnea by causing upper inflammation. However, sleep apnea might lead to GERD because it causes an increase in intra-thoracic pressure. Researchers found that OSA cases were higher among GERD patients than BE patients. Even when smoking, BMI and hypertension were considered, the rates of poor sleep still remained higher in those with GERD.

While BE is considered a more severe condition than GERD, researchers still found that poor quality of sleep and OSA were more closely associated with GERD. However, another study states that OSA is actually a leading risk factor for BE. What is also interesting is that sleep apnea and BE have common risk factors, including being overweight and having GERD.

With a closer look into our patients’ overall health, we can get a better look at what might be adding to their symptoms or even what might be causing further complications.

A Person’s Risk for Alzheimer Increases with Sleep Apnea

For patients that suffer from sleep apnea, their risk for developing Alzheimer’s later on in their life increases drastically. A new study has linked sleep apnea with an increase in the development of amyloid plaque in the brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that the more serious the sleep apnea was, the more plaque accumulated. And of those that suffer the most, it is typically the elderly. In fact, it is estimated that about 30 to 80 percent suffer from sleep apnea.  

What is the connection?

While none of the participants of this study developed Alzheimer’s over the two years, those with sleep apnea did accumulate amyloid plaque. This is a potential trigger for Alzheimer’s in the future.

The study suggests that treating sleep apnea would likely reduce the accumulation of amyloid plaque. In turn, it could also reduce or eliminate the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is because sleep is necessary for the brain to clear itself of the plaque. It is during sleep that the brain can do its housekeeping to clear some of the proteins that have accumulated during the day. A person with sleep apnea loses out on that restorative sleep that helps to protect the brain.

Treating sleep apnea is key to improving the health of our patients and it seems like the connection to other health conditions continues to grow.

Help Keep Your Patients Mindful of What They are Eating During the Holidays

This holiday season is all about having fun and spending time with your friends and family. However, it is important that our patients be mindful of what they eat so as to not worsen their TMD pain or sleep apnea condition.

Overeating often happens during the holidays, which can lead to weight gain and worsening of sleep apnea symptoms. And, depending on what they eat, it could exasperate the pain felt in the jaw.

What is the issue?

Immediately after overeating, patients might feel abdominal discomfort, but won’t think much about it. And while they might not immediately gain 10 pounds, it can lead to the development of weight gain if patients continue to eat like that. The repeated episodes of overeating result in health consequences such as obesity, high cholesterol, joint problems and sleep apnea. Excess weight can even lead to psychosocial and emotional problems.

It is completely fine to eat those holiday foods available once a year, so don’t encourage self-deprivation. However, overdoing it should definitely be avoided. Try to inform your patients on what to eat, how to pace themselves and what to do to make up for heavier eating during the holiday season such as exercising or going on a walk.

One way of doing this is to tell your patients to put a positive spin on not eating certain foods. This might include, “I can eat that, but I choose not to because I want to eat healthfully.” This helps to minimize the feeling of being deprived of food. Some other tips include planning ahead, setting priorities for the foods patients want to eat, staying hydrated and eating mindfully. Very few bites get that maximum pleasure for people.

Whatever our patients eat this holiday season, make sure you emphasize enjoyment, moderation and perspective. And after all is said and done, recommend a nice walk or hitting up the gym in the days following.

What are some tips you can share with us for keeping our patients’ eating patterns in check this holiday season?

Now Available! An Educational Book on TMD

I am excited to announce that “Take a Bite Out of Pain: A Journey to Overcoming Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD)” is now available for purchase! This new educational book is a great gift for a friend or family member suffering from pain, or even to display at your office for your patients.

This book is available for purchase at Lulu.com and will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

What is it about?

I wrote this book in collaboration with Sara Berg. She has been writing for me for almost five years now and this is our second book together. We decided to write about pain and TMD to better educate patients on these symptoms and what to do. As dentists, we are in a unique position to help our patients feel better.

To help you better understand what the book is about, here is a brief description:

“Pain should never be ignored. Whether it is pain in your jaw, or what seems like a headache, don’t ignore the discomfort. Ignoring pain would be a waste of time, leading to further complications with your health.

Search for the underlying cause of your pain with help from qualified dentists that treat such cases. Finding the source of your nagging pain will help you continue on with your daily activities—hopefully eliminating any discomfort present.

Don’t just “put up with” pain—seek proper treatment. Pain is a complex and complicated symptom tuned by your brain, as it triggers every painful sensation. Are you just going to sit there and wish the pain away? No, absolutely not.

Educate yourself on the cause or causes, and treatment options. Pain isn’t a singular problem, it can be so much more.”

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and I hope that you utilize this book to help your patients before, during or after their visits to your office!