How Doctors Stop Reflux For Good   

How Doctors Stop Reflux For Good

Doctor's hands holding up a graphic of a stomach, illustrating acid reflux
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Annie Laurie Benzie, M.D.

You might take over-the-counter medication for occasional heartburn or acid reflux. For chronic reflux, a doctor can offer relief from the unpleasant symptoms.

Several treatment options are available for chronic reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Your doctor can assess which lifestyle changes, medications or surgical procedures may help you.

“If you aren’t getting relief from symptoms by self-treating, it is time to see a doctor,” says general surgeon, Annie Laurie Benzie, M.D. “Doctors who treat reflux can help you identify triggers and find the cause of your symptoms.”

Signs of Chronic Reflux

Reflux symptoms, including heartburn, are caused by stomach acid backing into the esophagus.

The esophagus is a tube that connects your mouth to your stomach that serves as a passageway for food. When the sphincter – the “doorway” between esophagus and stomach – doesn’t close tightly, reflux occurs.

How can you tell if you have chronic reflux or GERD? You may have the condition if you experience these symptoms at least twice weekly:

  • A burning feeling in your chest (heartburn)
  • The sour taste of acid in your mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A dry cough
  • A chronic sore throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • More saliva in your mouth than usual
  • Asthma symptoms, including wheezing or shortness of breath

Some people experience GERD or reflux symptoms when they lie down after eating. Others notice that heartburn and other symptoms arise after they eat certain foods, including:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Greasy, fried food
  • Spicy food
  • Acidic food
  • Fatty food
  • Tomatoes, tomato sauce or other tomato products
  • Peppermint
  • Alcoholic beverages

Treatments for Chronic Reflux

When a doctor diagnoses you with GERD, they may suggest lifestyle changes, including:

  • Losing weight, as needed
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding overeating
  • Eating two or more hours before bedtime
  • Avoiding foods and beverages that trigger symptoms
  • Cutting back on, or avoiding, alcoholic beverages
  • Quitting smoking
  • Elevating your head in bed by placing a foam wedge under your pillow

If lifestyle changes alone are not  effective, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications. Options include:

  • Antacids
  • H2 blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors

If medication is not effective or if you want long term relief, surgical intervention is also an option. There are several procedures which can help to correct the causes of reflux.

Your doctor can let you know if an operation is right for you. Common procedures are called:

  • Hiatal hernia repair, where the stomach is kept within the abdomen by strengthening the diaphragm muscle
  • Fundoplication, when doctors wrap the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus to recreate a one-way valve
  • Linx surgery, when doctors wrap a ring of titanium beads where esophagus meets stomach to reinforce the natural one-way valve
  • Transoral incisionless fundoplication, when doctors reinforce the lower esophagus through endoscopy

Weight-loss surgery, when appropriate, may help some obese people who have GERD. Losing weight helps to relieve pressure placed on the lower esophageal sphincter.

Why You Should Seek Treatment for Chronic Reflux

Untreated GERD may cause more than heartburn or other uncomfortable symptoms. Over time, stomach acid may damage the esophagus, leading to complications like:

  • Inflammation of delicate tissue within the esophagus, causing bleeding or ulcers
  • The formation of scar tissue in the esophagus, causing the esophagus to narrow
  • Changes to tissue in the esophagus, including the development of pre-cancerous tissue

For these reasons, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of GERD.

“Some people may not realize that untreated heartburn-type symptoms may lead to long-term damage,” Dr. Benzie says. “To protect your overall health, seek a doctor’s help for chronic reflux.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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