Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that refers to the stomach and esophagus. It affects the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, otherwise known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). GERD occurs when the LES is weak or does not close properly to allow the stomach’s contents to rise into the esophagus. Hiatal hernia can sometimes be the cause of GERD. While this condition causes heartburn and/or acid indigestion, those problems can be usually be relieved by simple changes in diet and lifestyle. But in more severe cases, or conditions that don’t properly respond to medication, surgery may be the most fruitful solution.
The most common symptom of GERD is acid indigestion, commonly known as heartburn, a burning chest pain that travels from the breastbone up to the neck and throat. This sensation can last for several hours and worsens after eating. Heartburn can also result from lying down or bending over. Often, a person may feel as if food is coming back into the mouth and leaving an acidic or bitter taste.
The most common treatment for GERD is a change in lifestyle and dietary habits. There are many foods that can weaken and damage the LES, such as chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee and alcohol. Citrus fruits and juices, tomato product and pepper should also be avoided because they are known to irritate a damaged esophageal lining.
Portion control at mealtime may also help avoid painful symptoms. Also, allowing the acid in the stomach to decrease and the stomach to partially empty may help, therefore a person should eat meals at least two to three hours before bedtime. Smoking also weakens the LES. Antacids can provide temporary or partial relief by neutralizing acid in the esophagus and stomach to stop heartburn.
For severe cases which do not respond to lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medication, a surgical procedure, fundoplication, is a surgical procedure that allows the lower esophagus to undergo increased pressure. However, only a small segment of patients with GERD will need surgery. New options in treatment of GERD include endoscopic procedures that place stitches in the LES or use electrodes to promote scarring of the LES.
Take Action Now
Most importantly, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted here, see your doctor to confirm the condition and begin medical treatment to relieve symptoms. Without treatment, the condition could worsen making the pain and discomfort even more pronounced. As with any medical condition, act now, before the pain and discomfort grows into something more serious.
Note: Dr. Sowemimo discusses GERD and the latest treatment options in this video.
About Dr. Seun Sowemimo
“Dr. Seun” is a board-certified, fellowship-trained advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon with expertise performing the safest, most advanced laparoscopic and general surgical operations. To learn more, visit his YouTube channel or call Prime Surgicare at (732) 637-6370.