Heartburn treatments from the experts

Posted: Nov 23 in Surgery Blog tagged by Staff

If you’ve ever experienced heartburn, you know how painful and uncomfortable it can be, and for chronic sufferers, it can be almost unbearable. People with constant heartburn and acid reflux could be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and if left unchecked, it can erode the lining of your esophagus, increasing your risk of esophageal cancer, among other maladies.

What, when, and how much are you eating?
The first step is to look at what types of foods you’re eating. There are many different foods that can trigger heartburn, including spicy foods, citrus, mint, or fatty foods. You should also eat smaller meals, because an overly large meal can put pressure on your stomach, causing reflux. The time of day you eat can trigger heartburn—eating a meal right before bed won’t give your body enough time to digest it before you lay down, so those acids can pool in your stomach and reflux back up to your esophagus.

Food may not be the only factor. Obesity can cause heartburn much in the same way that pregnancy does. The excess weight puts pressure on the stomach and can weaken the valve between your stomach and esophagus, allowing acids to flow up instead of stay in the stomach where they belong. Both alcohol and caffeine are known triggers for heartburn, as is cigarette smoke. Also, if you take aspirin and pain relievers often, you should consider cutting back to avoid irritating your stomach.

What are your options for treatment?

  • OTC Antacids: Over-the-counter antacids can work for occasional acid reflux but may not provide any long-term effectiveness.
  • Acid Blockers: Both prescription-strength and over-the-counter acid blockers last longer than antacids, even if they don’t act as quickly.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): These drugs, primarily available by prescription only, lower your stomach acids significantly and can offer relief for both heartburn and GERD.
  • Endoscopy: If your heartburn is chronic and has not abated, a gastroenterologist can perform an endoscopy, which will assess your esophagus to see if you have significant damage, and more aggressive treatments can be pursued at that time.
  • Surgery: Chronic heartburn that is not controlled by lifestyle change or medications, may require surgical correction.  The Nissen Fundoplication surgery is the most commonly performed laporascopic procedure along with the new Transesophageal Incisionless Fundoplication or TIF surgery for GERD.

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