If you have recurrent acid reflux, you know how much it can impact your life. Worrying about what you eat and whether it will affect you later on can be frustrating. When it strikes you by surprise, the discomfort and pain of acid reflux can make life unpleasant.
When acid reflux occurs every now and then, it’s nothing to worry about. But about 20% of Americans struggle with acid reflux and the problems it causes at least twice a week or more. If this describes you, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
At the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, triple board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, specializes in helping patients with GERD reduce their symptoms and enjoy life again. He also believes in the power of patient education. Read on to understand why you shouldn’t ignore GERD.
Why do I have GERD?
GERD results from stomach acid backing up into your esophagus, the long tube that runs from the back of your mouth to your stomach. At the end of the esophagus, a valve or sphincter is in place to keep stomach acid from entering the esophagus. When it stops working correctly, you experience acid reflux.
The soft tissues of your esophagus aren’t designed to handle harsh stomach acids, which is why it burns when you experience acid reflux. Other symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Heartburn or chest pain
- Issue swallowing or feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
- Indigestion or stomach discomfort
- Acidic or metallic taste in your mouth
Everyone experiences acid reflux occasionally, but when it occurs regularly (twice a week or more), you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you’re experiencing the above symptoms twice a week or find you’re taking over-the-counter antacids more than twice a week, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rivas to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
Why shouldn’t I ignore GERD?
If you have or think you have GERD, it’s important to seek medical help to get your symptoms under control. When acid reflux symptoms aren’t treated, GERD can cause other health problems, including:
- Severe cough in the mornings
- Aspiration of stomach contents into your lungs
- Dental problems
- Asthma symptoms
- Persistent inflammation
- Ulcerations or strictures
- Precancerous changes (Barrett's esophagus)
Fortunately, many treatment options for GERD exist. Diagnosis is key to effective treatment, and may include an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, your provider inserts a flexible tube down your throat to examine your esophagus and stomach and diagnose any issues.
What are the treatments for GERD?
If you’re diagnosed by Dr. Rivas with GERD, you have several treatment options. Dr. Rivas typically begins treatment with conservative approaches, including lifestyle changes (changes to your diet) and over-the-counter medications or prescription medications, such as H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Some lifestyle changes that may help alleviate your GERD symptoms include:
- Avoiding beverages with high acidity (e.g., coffee)
- Avoiding tomato sauce
- Avoiding onions and garlic
- Avoiding fried foods
- Eliminating or minimizing your consumption of alcohol
Dr. Rivas may also recommend not lying down for 2-3 hours after eating to decrease the risk of stomach acid backing up into your esophagus.
Sometimes medications and lifestyle changes aren’t enough. In this case, Dr. Rivas may recommend minimally invasive procedures, such as a Nissen fundoplication, which helps strengthen the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus.
If you’re struggling with recurrent acid reflux, don’t ignore it. Call the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, at 954-228-5882 or book an appointment online now.