The Most Effective Treatments for Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where acid in the stomach flows back into the esophagus causing irritation of its lining. Symptoms can include burning in the chest, chest pain, regurgitation of food into the mouth, and difficulty swallowing. Even though this disorder can be painful and irritating, it can be effectively controlled. This is by over-the-counter medications or by prescription medications prescribed by your Gastroenterologist. This is in addition to making lifestyle changes. The following are some of the most effective treatments available to manage the symptoms and discomfort.
- Antacids-These medications help to neutralize the stomach acid and include Mylanta, Tums, and Rolaids. They are one of the first recommended treatments. They can provide quick relief, but they don’t heal the esophagus if the lining is damaged. Overuse can cause problems such as diarrhea or chronic kidney disease, especially those containing aluminum and magnesium.
- H-2 Receptor Blockers-These medications work to decrease the amount of acid that is made in the stomach. While they do not work as quickly as the antacids, they provide longer relief for up to 12 hours. Examples of these include Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Zantac, and Axid AR.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors- This class of medications blocks acid production. It also helps to heal any damage caused to the lining of the esophagus. They are much stronger than the H-2 receptor blockers and include Prevacid, Prilosec, and Zegerid.
- H-2 Receptor Blocker s- These are prescription-strength versions of the over-the-counter medications Pepcid, Axid, and Zantac. Although most people have no problems taking them, long-term use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. As well as an increased risk of bone fractures.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) – As with the H-2 receptor blockers, this is the prescription-strength form. It includes Prevacid, Prilosec, Zegerid, and Protonix. Chronic use of these medications can cause diarrhea and nausea. This is in addition to vitamin B12 deficiency and increased risk of bone fractures.
- Baclofen – This medication works to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter muscle; however, it can cause nausea and fatigue in some people.
While diet doesn’t cause GERD, certain foods can aggravate the symptoms. Specific foods vary from person-to-person. Many people find that chocolate and foods that are high in fat are particularly troublesome. Alcohol and other drinks such as coffee, soda, citrus can cause excess acid production increasing GERD symptoms. In order to find out if certain foods aggravate your symptoms, eliminate one at a time to see if symptoms improve.
Another factor that may play an important part in GERD is the positioning of the body after eating, especially a large meal. Lying down after eating may cause food to back up into the esophagus causing heartburn and indigestion. If you find this is the case for you, try to eat at least three hours before going to bed or lying down and don’t have an after-dinner snack. It may also help to make the major meal of the day at lunchtime and have a smaller, more easily digestible meal for dinner.
Obesity also promotes GERD due to excess weight in the abdominal area. Losing even a small amount of weight can make a difference in the symptoms experienced. GERD during pregnancy can occur, especially in the first three months, due to hormones and the pressure of the growing baby on the stomach. If you are a smoker, then quitting may reduce your GERD symptoms since smoking decreases the function of the esophageal muscles. Finally, emotional stress and strong emotions can bring on symptoms of GERD so participating in a stress-relief program such as mindfulness or meditation may ease the symptoms.
Endoscopic Anti-reflux procedures:
- The transoral incisionless fundoplication, (TIF), is a minimally invasive treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that is performed in the outpatient setting.
- The TIF procedure is from inside the patient’s stomach without incisions. This procedure delivers patient outcomes like those by conventional anti-reflux surgery (ARS) procedures, but is less invasive, has fewer adverse effects, and does not limit future treatment options.
- Following the principles of ARS, the TIF procedure repairs the anti-reflux barrier by reducing a hiatal hernia and creating a valve 2 to 4 cm in length and greater than 270-degree circumferential wrap, restoring one-way valve operation.
- A less invasive approach to Fundoplication.
- Stretta therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that significantly reduces GERD symptoms, allowing most patients to eliminate or largely decrease use of PPIs.
- An outpatient procedure performed in less than 60 minutes, allowing patients to return to normal activities the following day.
- Doesn’t require any incisions, stitches or implants.
For most people, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes are enough to control or eliminate GERD symptoms, but if they are not successful, there are surgical procedures that can be performed. These include:
- Fundoplication – In this minimally invasive surgery, the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the bottom part of the esophagus to tighten the sphincter muscle preventing reflux.
- LINX Device – A small ring of magnetic beads is around the area where the stomach and esophagus meet. The beads are strong enough to keep acid from backing up. They are not strong enough to prevent food from flowing through.
GERD causes uncomfortable and at times, painful symptoms for those who suffer from it, however, there are quite a few effective treatment options available. If you prefer to try making changes in your lifestyle before taking medication or having surgery, the tips above can be helpful. If these don’t work, make an appointment with your Gastroenterologist to discuss the best options available to you.