Having GERD is like having a sewer that backs up a lot. The stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus. It’s painful, not to mention annoying and, if left untreated, could lead to permanent damage. Most people can manage everyday heartburn with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But for people with GERD, stronger medications or surgery might be needed.
While the reason some people develop GERD is still a medical mystery, if you’ve been diagnosed with it you have several treatment options, including medication and lifestyle changes. To help manage GERD a doctor will attempt to manage its symptoms, heal the lining of the esophagus and prevent more damage. Several lifestyle factors can cause GERD, such as being overweight, pregnant or smoking. Foods that can cause GERD include chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, fatty or fried food, garlic, onions, and tomato-based foods like pizza.
Several over-the-counter antacids can help bring relief. These include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta and Rolaids. Antacids like Tums, Titralac, and Alka-2 can not only relieve the heartburn caused by GERD, but they also supply calcium. Antacids like Gaviscon cover the stomach contents with foam, thus preventing reflux.
H2 blockers which can be non-prescription medications like Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC and Zantac 75 decrease acid production. They only provide short-term relief and are only effective for about half of those with GERD.
Proton pump inhibitors include Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium. Proton pump inhibitors are more effective than H2 blockers and can also heal the esophageal lining.
Prokinetics help make the stomach empty faster but also come with unwanted side effects including fatigue, depression and anxiety. However these medications, which include Urecholine and Reglan, can improve muscle action in the digestive tract.
The fact is most GERD can be controlled with medication. But if that doesn’t work, surgery could be an option. There are two types of surgical procedures that can help people with GERD:
Surgery that reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter involves wrapping the very top of the stomach around the outside of the lower esophagus.
Surgery to create a barrier preventing the backup of stomach acid involves putting stitches in the stomach near the weakened sphincter. The stitches are tied together, which creates barriers to prevent stomach acid from washing into the esophagus.
Some people with GERD find making changes in their lives relieves their condition. These include: losing weight, quitting smoking, eating smaller meals, raising the head of the bed when sleeping and waiting at least three hours before lying down after eating.
Unfortunately for those with GERD, sometimes eliminating certain foods is necessary. These include hot and spicy food and food that’s especially acidic.