Unlike a wide variety of stomach disorders, GERD — short for gastroesophageal reflux disorder — is a completely curable condition. In fact, you can even prevent the disease by employing the appropriate precautions. That said, treatment for patients diagnosed with GERD typically involves following the adequate measures to help manage the condition. Our extensively trained bariatric surgeon, Hossein Bagshahi, MD, can help you find solutions for your acid reflux and GERD symptoms using the latest techniques, which most often include non-surgical and minimally invasive treatment options.
- What is GERD?
- Acid Reflux Causes
- GERD Symptoms
- GERD Risk Factors
- GERD Diagnosis
- Natural GERD Treatments
- Best GERD Diet
- Types of GERD Surgery
What Is Gerd?
In simple terms, GERD is the abbreviated form of gastroesophageal reflux disorder — a condition that causes the stomach to automatically “throw up” liquid contents high in acidity. As the stomach acid shoots into the esophagus (the connective tube between the stomach and mouth), the reflux can irritate and potentially damage the esophageal lining. Consequently, a patient can suffer from a shot of excoriating pain along with heartburn and burning in the lining of the esophagus tract.
While acid reflux can be a relatively normal occurrence, GERD may be indicated by a patient experiencing mild acid reflux two or more times per week, or moderate to severe acid reflux once per week. A physical evaluation and consultation with Dr. Bagshahi can more accurately reveal whether you are affected by GERD and, if so, the extent of concerns in the esophageal lining.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid moves above the diaphragm (a muscle that separates the stomach from the chest) and into the esophagus, where it can cause discomfort and burning. One of the most common causes of acid reflux is a hiatal hernia, a stomach abnormality in which the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and stomach valve opening migrate above the diaphragm, allowing stomach acid to seep into the esophagus. In other cases, the LES may not close completely or may remain fully open, resulting in a similar effect.
There are many factors that can exacerbate the risk of developing acid reflux, including:
- Consuming large meal portions
- Lying down immediately after a heavy meal
- Obesity and being overweight
- Eating and snacking right before bedtime
- Certain foods and beverages, such as spicy meals, citrus, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- Smoking, pregnancy, and certain medications
Adjusting your lifestyle habits may be an effective way to improve acid reflux disease and reduce the frequency of your symptoms. If the heartburn, regurgitation, bloating, and other signs of acid reflux worsen, your condition may become more severe and develop into GERD.
What Are the Symptoms of GERD?
Frequent heartburn is the most telltale sign of GERD, often occurring in conjunction with chest pain, regurgitation, the feeling of a lump in your throat, or difficulty swallowing. Some patients experience the sensation of food being “stuck” in their esophagus, while others contend with a dry cough, hoarseness, or tightness in the throat. Symptoms generally vary from patient to patient. GERD is also usually categorized as a phenomenon that especially occurs during sleep. Some people feel the reflux in between or a few hours after a hefty meal depending on the severity of the disorder. The good news is that treatment for GERD is possible and the condition can be completely resolved with the appropriate measures.
What are the Risk Factors for GERD?
While GERD is very common and affects approximately one in five individuals in the U.S., certain patients may be at a higher risk of developing the disorder, including:
- Adults over the age of 40
- Women who are pregnant
- Individuals who are obese or overweight
- Those who smoke or drink excessively
- People who take medications that may induce acid reflux
If your eating habits align with the risk factors for developing acid reflux listed above, you are also likely more susceptible to GERD. This is due to the fact that GERD is usually considered a more severe form of acid reflux.
How Is Gerd Diagnosed?
In order to assess and diagnose a patient for GERD treatment, Dr. Bagshahi will ask a series of questions related to acidity and heartburn. In addition, he might perform an upper endoscopy — a process in which a thin, flexible tube-cam is inserted into the patient’s mouth to view the lining of the esophagus. This allows Dr. Bagshahi to determine the actual state of the esophagus and check for signs of ulcers and other problematic issues inside the tract.
Non-Surgical and Natural Treatments for GERD
Each patient’s needs are unique and we offer a wide range of options that can be tailored to suit your particular condition and situation. In addition to providing advice about non-surgical and natural acid reflux treatments, we also prescribe medication and can recommend a surgical approach in the event it’s deemed necessary. Some examples of effective, non-invasive GERD treatments include:
Natural Acid Reflux Remedies
In addition to following a good GERD diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, it can be very helpful to keep your head lifted when you rest. By keeping the position of your pillow slightly elevated while sleeping, you are naturally preventing the GERD phenomenon from occurring. Many patients have benefited from this simple technique, reporting that they never experience acid reflux again after implementing it.
Following a proper exercise program is also essential. A moderate amount of walking can dramatically reduce GERD symptoms.
Acid Reflux Medicine
Both over-the-counter and prescribed medicine can help minimize GERD symptoms. Zantac® and Prilosec OTC® are two popular options available from most drug stores and pharmacies. These treatments can be excellent options to address occasional heartburn. For heartburn that occurs two or more times a week — which is indicative of GERD — a daily pill can provide more significant relief for most people. Pepcid®, Zantac®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec®, and other brands are available in stronger doses with a prescription from a doctor.
What is the Best GERD Treatment Diet to Follow?
GERD is usually triggered by food and liquid intake. Eating a lot of spicy food can put the stomach under stress, causing it to produce high amounts of acid meant to help digest the food. While doing so however, the stomach can shoot the excess acidic content back into a patient’s mouth.
In many cases, you are following an at-home GERD treatment by simply maintaining a healthy diet plan. Tips for managing and potentially resolving GERD without surgery include:
- Incorporating fruit, raw vegetables, and salads into your diet to not only prevent GERD, but also to ensure optimal health and body level performance
- Reducing meal portions and avoiding trigger foods, which Dr. Bagshahi can help you determine
- Staying in an upright position after eating
- Eating at least three hours before bedtime
- Not wearing tight clothing around the stomach while eating
- Sleeping with the head elevated
- Being at a healthy weight
You should also be aware of the trigger foods that may act as a catalyst to acid reflux. For instance, eating high amounts of chocolate or drinking excessive amounts of coffee can accelerate the GERD phenomenon. Anything in excess is bad for your health, so closely monitor your dietary choices to reduce the frequency of GERD.
Types Of Gerd Surgery
When non-surgical treatment proves insufficient to address your symptoms or you’re experiencing esophageal inflammation/ulcers, surgery may be recommended to either tighten the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) so it closes more completely, or to correct an anatomical issue that may be causing GERD.
Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication For Gerd
Fundoplication is the standard surgical treatment for GERD. This procedure is designed to tighten and reconstruct the valve of the LES. In transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF), surgery is performed through the mouth and down the esophagus, without the need for open surgery or incisions of any type. This is a leading minimally invasive technique that allows for shorter recovery times and improved healing when compared to other surgical approaches.
Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication For Gerd
Another form of minimally invasive fundoplication uses small incisions and miniature surgical instruments to repair the LES. While a bit more invasive than TIF, laparoscopic nissen fundoplication still offers shorter recovery times and improved healing over traditional open surgery. Selecting the right approach for your condition will depend on several factors unique to your situation.
Linx® For Gerd
Small enough to fit into a coin purse, the LINX® device is an innovative approach to GERD treatment designed to help close the valve to the stomach opening when not in use. LINX® can improve the function of the LES without reconstruction or surgical alteration by placing an elasticized titanium ring with magnetic beads around the valve opening. This is accomplished using laparoscopic techniques. The general result is that the stomach contents enter, but stomach acid is hampered from flowing backward into the esophagus. Patients can still belch or vomit as needed, but GERD symptoms can be eliminated using this simple device. LINX® is made to last a lifetime; however, it can also be removed if necessary and the titanium should not set off metal detectors, nor cause issues with MRI machines.
Questions about GERD and the treatment options at our Fort Worth practice? Talk to our medical team today to learn more about the advanced techniques that are now available to treat this increasingly common condition.