Dec. 5, 2013 by kcarlson
Acid Reflux or GERD? Serious Heartburn May Require Meds
The Doctors, USA WEEKEND November 22, 2013
It’s that time of year again — big dinners, lots of parties and celebratory toasts. For some holiday revelers, that means more heartburn. Getting a burning sensation in your chest now and then is normal, particularly after overdoing fatty or fried foods, chocolate and alcohol. But when it’s more than twice a week, you may have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This chronic condition results when stomach acid or bile backs up into the esophagus; the “reflux” of acid irritates sensitive tissue that lines your food pipe. What you need to know:
It causes more than heartburn. Though that’s the telltale sign, not everyone with GERD experiences it. Other signs: regurgitation of food or a sour-tasting liquid, nausea, chest pain, hoarseness or sore throat. Some may have difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is stuck in their throat. GERD can also cause dry cough or bad breath.
Losing weight can help. That’s because excess fat around the belly increases pressure on the stomach, which forces acid back up into your esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight both reduces risk of developing GERD and helps treat it. Other changes that may help: wear loose-fitting clothing around your waist; quit smoking; eat smaller meals and skip foods that trigger heartburn. Also: wait at least three hours after eating before you lie down; if possible, raise the head of your bed with wood blocks or a wedge between your mattress and the box spring. The goal is to elevate your body from the waist up so gravity can help keep stomach acid down. (Pillows don’t provide the same effect.)
You’ll likely need medicine, too. Diet adjustments, lifestyle changes and antacids may help mild symptoms, but for many people with GERD, stronger meds are needed. H-2-receptor blockers reduce acid production; proton pump inhibitors block acid production to allow the esophagus to heal. Both are available in over-the-counter or prescription strength. If drugs don’t help, your doctor may discuss surgery. Some medical centers now offer a new, less invasive procedure called the LINX system, which involves laparoscopically implanting a magnetic ring at the bottom of the esophagus to improve symptoms.
Talk to your doctor to determine your best course. Left untreated, GERD can sometimes cause serious complications, from an ulcer to precancerous changes in the esophagus.