These GERD treatments could help you get rid of chronic acid reflux for good.
Tasting your food once is great. Tasting it twice…not so much.
Acid reflux — that unpleasant regurgitation of food or stomach acid — is relatively common. But if it happens more than twice a week, it might be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
“It’s easy to brush off chronic acid reflux, especially if it’s mild, but excessive GERD symptoms should be taken seriously,” explains Amitpal S. Johal, MD, FASGE, chair of gastroenterology at Geisinger.
The good news is a variety of treatment options can help prevent acid reflux from leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
The most common symptoms of GERD are heartburn and regurgitation of stomach acid or food, but you might also have:
- Trouble swallowing
- A feeling like something is stuck in your throat
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness or a dry cough
- Chest pain
- Bad breath
“Occasional acid reflux or heartburn usually isn’t something to worry about,” explains Dr. Johal. “But when it becomes chronic, that’s when we need to rule out conditions like GERD.”
What causes GERD?
GERD is chronic acid reflux caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which works like a trapdoor. When the stomach is empty, it opens and lets food in. Once the stomach is full, the LES closes to stop acid and bile from leaving the stomach.
“In people with GERD, their LES is weak and either does not close completely or may open at inappropriate times,” says Dr. Johal. “As a result, acid and bile can flow back up into the esophagus, especially while lying down.”
Over time, stomach acid can cause long-term damage to your esophagus, resulting in conditions like:
- Esophagitis (inflammation of your esophagus)
- Barrett’s esophagus (a condition that changes the tissue lining your esophagus and can increase your risk of esophageal cancer)
- Stricture (narrowing of your esophagus)
- Esophageal cancer
According to Dr. Johal, the best way to avoid these conditions is to take steps to reduce and eliminate GERD for good.
How is GERD treated?
With treatment, it’s possible to manage and, in some cases, cure GERD. A gastroenterologist can review your symptoms and recommend which of the following GERD treatments is right for you:
Making simple updates to your daily routine is one of the easiest ways to help reduce your GERD symptoms. Dr. Johal recommends:
- Avoiding fast food
- Not eating for three to four hours before bed
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Eating smaller meals
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Steering clear of tobacco
- Staying away from spicy foods
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Exercising regularly with an empty stomach
- Avoiding stress
Plus, not only can these habits help alleviate your symptoms, but they’re also good for your overall health.
A number of medications can provide relief for GERD symptoms. Your doctor might recommend:
- Antacids – Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like Tums® work by neutralizing stomach acid. These can provide short-term relief for mild cases of GERD but are not as effective for long-term use.
- H2 blockers – Available both OTC and in prescription strength, medications like Pepcid® reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
- Proton pump inhibitors – If you already have damage to your esophagus, your doctor might recommend an OTC or prescription-strength proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec®. These medications are better than H2 blockers at reducing acid and can give your esophagus more time to heal.
Surgical and non-surgical procedures
If you're not seeing results with other GERD treatments, your gastroenterologist might suggest a procedure to more permanently manage your condition.
Some options include:
- Fundoplication – The most common surgical treatment for GERD, fundoplication involves wrapping the top part of your stomach around your lower esophagus.
- LINX™ Reflux Management System – A quarter-sized device is implanted around the bottom of your esophagus via a minimally invasive surgery. The device relaxes to let food into your stomach and contracts to keep acid in.
- Bariatric surgery – If obesity is contributing to your GERD, bariatric surgery could be an option to target both conditions.
- Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) – Using an endoscope and a special TIF device, this procedure is less invasive than a traditional fundoplication.
- Stretta® procedure – This minimally invasive procedure uses an endoscope and radiofrequency waves to rebuild the tissue barrier of your upper stomach.
Saying goodbye to GERD for good
The upshot: It is possible to get relief from the unpleasant symptoms of chronic acid reflux.
“If GERD interferes with your daily life or drastically restricts what you can eat, it’s time to talk to your primary care provider or gastroenterologist," says Dr. Johal. “They can recommend treatments to relieve your symptoms and lower your risk of long-term damage.”