GERD can cause enough pain and discomfort to make your head spin. Not only will the condition result in traditional GERD symptoms, such as burning sensation in your chest and throat, additional side effects can include bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. Talk about the trifecta of gastrointestinal discomfort!
With this sort of issue affecting sufferers more than two times every week, most people suffering from GERD are diligently searching for any option to alleviate the symptoms and regain control of their health. Typically, physicians recommend three main areas for helping patients find relief or cure GERD including medication, lifestyle adjustments, and medical devices.
Medications that are taken on a proactive basis, rather than the typical antacid tablets that everyone takes after the annual 4th of July Hotdog Eating Contest, can serve to control the effects of GERD. The following GERD medications should be discussed with a physician.
1. Histamine-2 Blockers
Histamine-2 Blockers is one option that can be purchased at your corner CVS or prescribed by your physician if a high dose is necessary. This family of medication works to quench the histamine reflex, which is responsible for acid production around meal and bedtime.
2. Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton Pump Inhibitors typically serve to stave off acid production for longer periods of time than the aforementioned histamine blocker. This group of medications also serves to protect the esophagus, allowing for any damage to heal.
3. Promitility Agents
Promitility Agents affect the muscle in the gastrointestinal tract, rather than the actual acid reflex, to improve the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter. Since this sphincter is responsible for the release of acid, this medication can control the flow of acid from stomach to esophagus. However, this medication group has a history of serious and damaging side effects, such as heart arrhythmias.
While many people like to hear that a little pill exists to remedy all of life’s physical discomforts and illnesses, sometimes simple, but difficult to adhere to lifestyle adjustments are the most effective way to obtain positive change. The lifestyle alterations below will likely remedy the effects of GERD.
1. Stay vertical after meals.
While it can be tempting to lie down on the couch after eating an entire Domino’s pizza, try to sit upright for thirty minutes. This will help keep the flow of acid from bubbling up in your through.
2. Avoid trigger foods.
While food affects every person differently, a few common rules usually apply across the board. Anything spicy, fatty, carbonated, or caffeinated is likely to trigger GERD.
3. Remove personal vices.
As if enough reasons did not already exist to cut the smokes, here is one more. Nicotine relaxes the muscles of the lower esophagus which creates an open invitation for acid to creep up into the throat. Much to everyone’s dismay, alcohol has a similar effect and can also lead to throat spasms. Cue the collective sigh of disappointment.
When medication and lifestyle adjustments fail, a physician may pursue a medical device option to control serious and persistent GERD in patients. This is a last resort as patients and physicians will want to aggressively exhaust the other options before moving forward with a medical device. The following devices are potential options.
1. Linx Reflux Management System
In 2012, the FDA approved the LINX™ Reflux Management System. This system is a band of beads with a magnetic core that is surgically implanted around the lower end of the esophagus. This allows food to continue moving from the esophagus to the stomach, but restricts the back-flow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus.
Stretta is an option that allows for minimally invasive results. This outpatient, no incision procedure delivers radio frequency energy to the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. This improves the function of the muscle and results in reduced acid flow.
When considering medical device options, it is important to consider the professional opinions of physicians who can draw on scientific research to provide an appropriate recommendation for each patient. Dr. Faisal Bhinder of Capital Digestive Care stated, “Stretta or radiofrequency ablation of the lower esophageal and upper gastric area to induce a scarring to cause contraction and reduce acid reflux has been evaluated but is not popular because further studies are needed before widespread acceptance of this modality is adopted.”
While acid reflux is uncomfortable and frustrating, patients have a variety of simple and inexpensive options to reduce the effects and repair the damage of GERD. When medication and lifestyle adjustments are not enough to find relief, multiple medical procedures, both surgical and non-invasive, exist to help restore personal equilibrium. If you are suffering from acid reflux more than once a week, stop taking Tums and Mylanta and make a trip to your primary care doctor who can guide you on the road to recovery.