GERD / Acid Reflux
Frequent or constant acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While many people have acid reflux from time to time, hence the market for over-the-counter products such as Tums, GERD is a constant condition. At Concorde Gastroenterology, we have various treatment strategies to manage the condition.
What is GERD?
In normal digestion, the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter, opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus.
Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes at the wrong time or has become weakened, allowing stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. This causes heartburn and irritation of the lining of your esophagus. If you have mild acid reflux at least twice weekly or moderate to severe acid reflux at least once a week, this is categorized as GERD.
What are the symptoms of GERD?
The severity of GERD depends on the degree of dysfunction in your esophageal sphincter. Heartburn is an obvious sign of GERD, but there are other symptoms, as well:
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) that occurs after eating and is usually worse at night
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest Pain
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Sensation of a lump in your throat
When the acid reflux occurs at nighttime, other symptoms can be present:
- Chronic cough
- New or worsening asthma
- Disrupted sleep
What does it feel like to have Acid Reflux?
Is GERD/acid reflux normal in babies and children?
Research has recently shown that GERD is more common in infants and children than was previously thought. This can be the cause of recurrent vomiting, coughing, and other early respiratory problems.
In most cases, this reflux in babies is due to a poorly coordinated gastrointestinal tract. Most infants grow out of the condition by their first birthday as their digestive system matures.
Are there risk factors with GERD?
- Hiatal hernia – bulging at the top of the stomach
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Connective tissue disorders
These lifestyle choices can aggravate acid reflux:
- Eating large meals
- Eating late at night
- Drinking alcohol or coffee
- Eating fatty or fried foods
- Taking certain medications, such as aspirin
What foods should I avoid with GERD?
What are other lifestyle changes I can make to alleviate my GERD?
Eat slowly, chew thoroughly — Put down your fork after every bite, and pick it up after you have fully chewed and swallowed that bite.
Don’t lie down after eating — The habit of lying on the couch after eating allows acid reflux to occur. Wait at least three hours before lying down or going to bed.
Elevate the head of your bed — If you regularly experience acid reflux while in bed, try elevating the head. You can do this by placing wood or blocks under the feet of the head of the bed, or by inserting a wedge between your mattress and box spring. Don’t do this with extra pillows, as that creates pressure on your neck and back.
Stop smoking — Smoking is shown to relax the esophageal sphincter.
How is GERD diagnosed?
At Concorde Gastroenterology, we can usually diagnose GERD with a physical examination, but we may recommend certain procedures to confirm our diagnosis:
- Upper endoscopy — An endoscope is inserted down the patient’s throat to examine the esophagus and stomach. The endoscope’s camera allows us to see inflammation, and we can take a tissue sample, if necessary.
- Ambulatory acid probe test — A monitor is placed in your esophagus to identify when stomach acid regurgitates there. The monitor connects to a small computer.
- Esophageal manometry — This test measures the rhythmic muscle contractions and the coordination and force exerted by your esophagus.
- X-rays — After you drink a chalky liquid that coats and fills the inside lining of your digestive tract, an x-ray provides a silhouette of the esophagus, stomach, and upper intestine.
How do you treat GERD and acid reflux?
Other than the lifestyle changes described above, at Concorde Gastroenterology we often begin with over-the-counter medications. These include antacids (Mylanta, etc.), medications to reduce acid production (Pepcid AC, Zantac, etc.), and medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus (Prevacid, Prilosec, etc.).
If these treatments don’t prove to be effective, we will prescribe medications for GERD. These include:
- Prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors
- Medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter
Surgery for Acid Reflux
GERD can usually be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. But sometimes long-term use of medication can create its own problems. In some cases, surgery is a possibility to treat GERD.
- Fundoplication — The top of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter is wrapped to tighten the muscle and prevent reflux. This is usually done with a laparoscope and is minimally invasive.
- LINX device — A ring made of tiny magnetic beads is wrapped around the area of the esophageal sphincter. The magnetic attraction between the beads is strong enough to keep the sphincter closed to keep acid from refluxing, but is weak enough to allow food to pass through.
What are the complications if I don’t treat my GERD or chronic acid reflux?
If your GERD is not addressed, the chronic inflammation can lead to these issues:
- Narrowing of the esophagus — Continued stomach acid present in the lower esophagus causes scar tissue to form, which narrows the food passage and leads to problems swallowing.
- An ulcer in the esophagus — Stomach acid can break down tissue in the esophagus, creating an open sore, which can bleed and make swallowing difficult.
- Precancerous changes to the esophagus — Continued damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue lining the lower esophagus. These changes increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
Schedule a Consultation
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Articles from the Inside Scoop
Bringing Attention to IBS for IBS Awareness Month
Does Your Crohn’s or IBD Put You At Risk For Colon Cancer?
How Are Crohn’s Disease And Brain Function Related?
When Is A Bloated Belly Something To Be Concerned About?
Foods For IBD
The Signs and Symptoms of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Capsule Endoscopy: The Camera for your Guts
Fighting Inflammation: What You Can Do
The Movement of Color: What to Look Out For
How to Live With IBS
Diarrhea Foods: To Eat or Not To Eat
5 Common Digestive Conditions
What to Eat? A Quick Guide for Crohn’s Disease
Related Clinical Trials
MONGERSEN for Crohn’s Disease