June 6th, 2016
Frequent Acid Reflux? There Might Be More to it than You Think
Dr. Gina Sam is a gastroenterologist; she specializes in the treatment and management of GERD and acid reflux. She is an assistant professor of medicine at the Mt. Sinai Hospital as well. We learned that she treats to over 1000 GERD patients a year and the numbers are growing.
Who is at risk for acid reflux?
It’s quite alarming to know that most adults experience acid reflux, in fact 60% of adults reported experiencing some kind of acid reflux within a year. There are over 7 million Americans affected with chronic reflux and it has affected their quality of life.
Dr. Sam explains that GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when there is back flow from the stomach to the esophagus. Normally, your esophageal sphincter stops any contents from your stomach to go up but when it weakens or inappropriately relaxes then the contents of the stomach can travel back to the esophagus causing heartburn, nausea and regurgitation.
Though many people experience acid reflux, not all of them are GERD. GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux and a serious disease. People with GERD often experience acid reflux every week while others only experience it occasionally. There have been studies about GERD but none have revealed as to why it happens or how it develops.
The causes of GERD remain unknown but doctors have revealed risk factors associated with the disease. Ideally, the stomach needs three hours to digest before it’s okay to lie down. Pregnancy and weight gain are revealed to be one of the factors that cause reflux. The main risk factors however include obesity, people who eat lots of spicy or fatty foods, eating close to bedtime and those that consume large amounts of alcohol.
There have been lots of speculation about GERD but gender and age have no connection to it. GERD can happen to anyone, anytime; even babies can develop GERD. However, for the majority of the patients with GERD, it all started with weight gain.
Read More on Beat the Acid Reflux
Signs and Symptoms
Since the symptoms of GERD vary from person to person, doctors have clustered them into two categories: typical and atypical. Typical signs include chest pain, heart burn, nausea, sore throat, regurgitation or vomiting and globus; it’s the feeling that you have something at the back of your throat but can’t get rid of it. In the more severe cases, the atypical symptoms include tooth decay and bad breath; which is the result of having the acid reflux, there’s also coughing, this happens when the reflux from the stomach reaches the lungs and then sinusitis.
Though these symptoms are different for each person, most people have noticed a pattern with their GERD or acid reflux. Some have claimed that the reflux goes away after losing some weight. However, if you have an anatomical problem such as a hernia then you can have reflux anytime even if you are careful with your diet.
The first line of treatment is conservative treatment wherein it targets the typical risk factors such as diet and weight loss. For some it can be enough, for others they may need to undergo endoscopy to check their esophagus.
The second line of treatment includes drugs. Proton Pump Inhibitors are acid suppressing drugs and effective in keeping the reflux at bay, however, you have to take them for the rest of your life and not all people want to commit to that. If you don’t like to take drugs then there are alternatives, just go to a GERD specialist. There are other diseases that have similar signs and symptoms to GERD that’s why you have to make sure yours are indeed caused by acid reflux and not from any other ailment.
The last option is the invasive and non-invasive procedures. The noninvasive procedure is called Stretta and it may take about 45 minutes for it to be done via endoscope. The surgeon makes use of a small balloon with needles, these needles applies heat to the esophageal lining which causes the tissues to bulk up. The relief is not instantaneous since it will take about a month for it to be felt. Patients still need to take their medication during those times. It’s highly recommended that they also be careful with their diet.
Invasive procedures include surgery; the surgery for the correction of GERD is called Nissen fundoplication. In this procedure, the surgeon wraps that top of the stomach around the esophagus to strengthen it. It can provide better relief for patients with chronic and severe GERD.
Things that you can do to manage GERD and acid reflux
Be informed. If you have been diagnosed with GERD and acid reflux don’t just depend on your doctor for information. There are lots of legit and reliable sources online about GERD and acid reflux disease. It’s better to be well informed.
Since diet plays a huge role with GERD and acid reflux then better start managing your diet.
Drink less alcohol. Since alcohol has high acidity content, it can contribute to GERDS.
Give your stomach time to digest before you sleep or lie down. Three hours is recommended.
Eat smart. Cut off fatty and spicy food from your diet as well as sodas and coffee.
Prevention is still better than cure so lose weight when you are tipping the scale.