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Treatment Options For “Acid Reflux”
What Is “Acid Reflux”?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly referred to as “acid reflux”, represents the abnormal backflow of stomach acid and other contents into the esophagus and often into the mouth. The cause of GERD is the failure of a valve mechanism (sphincter) at the lower end of the esophagus that should prevent the backflow. The backflow of stomach acid results in heartburn and a bitter taste in the mouth. The backflow of food into the mouth is commonly described as regurgitation.
There are several treatment options for GERD. First-line treatments are aimed at reducing and managing the symptoms through lifestyle changes and medications. If first-line treatments are unsuccessful then operative treatment is required to enhance the valve mechanism at the lower end of the esophagus.
General measures include eating several small meals and avoiding large meals. Meals should also be avoided just prior to going to sleep. Some foods predispose to heartburn should be avoided. These include chocolate, spicy foods, and acidic foods such as tomato and citrus. Avoidance of alcohol and caffeine are also recommended. Weight loss and smoking cessation are also beneficial in controlling the symptoms. Tight fitting clothes should also be avoided.
Medications that neutralize acid in the stomach or that reduce the acid production in the stomach can manage the symptoms for many patients. Many of these medications are available over the counter while some require prescription.
Endoscopy has been used to treat GERD with some promising results. While sedated, a flexible instrument with a camera is passed into the mouth and into the esophagus. Established techniques include: 1) burning the esophagus to promote muscle growth and 2) narrowing the esophagus at the level of the valve mechanism by using sutures.
The standard surgical treatment has been to wrap the stomach around the lower esophagus to create a new valve mechanism that prevents the reflux or backflow of stomach contents. New surgical techniques involve the placement of a magnetic ring around the lower esophagus in order to achieve similar results.
Discussing symptoms with your doctor is the first step to determine which may be the best treatment option.