Acid reflux is extremely common. In fact, roughly 60 million Americans have at least one episode of acid reflux each month. An occasional episode of acid reflux is usually no cause for concern. However, regular bouts are a warning sign of an underlying issue.
If you experience regular bouts of acid reflux, it’s time to seek professional help. Our gastroenterology team lead by Dr. Sreelatha Reddy at Houston Gastrointestinal & Liver Clinic, P.A diagnoses and treats a full range of gastrointestinal conditions.
Reaching for an over-the-counter antacid is fine for occasional heartburn, but frequent acid reflux requires medical evaluation. Medications and lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for acid reflux. If conservative approaches fail to relieve your symptoms, we may recommend minimally invasive or surgical approaches to bring lasting relief.
Here’s more about acid reflux.
Why does acid reflux occur?
Chronic acid reflux is a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Normally when you eat, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) located at the bottom of your esophagus acts as a trap door that opens to let food enter the stomach. It closes right away to stop stomach acid and bile from leaving the stomach.
A weak, damaged, or dysfunctional LES fails to close tightly, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to flow backward into the esophagus, causing a characteristic burning in the chest and acidic taste in the mouth.
It’s easy to brush off acid reflux symptoms, but GERD is a digestive condition that you should take seriously.
Left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious issues, including:
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Barrett’s esophagus (harmful changes to the esophagus that may turn into cancer)
Relief from acid reflux
Scheduling a visit with a digestive specialist is the first step to getting relief from acid reflux. We may recommend medications and lifestyle changes to help control your GERD.
Drugs used to treat acid reflux include:
- H2 blockers (reduce acid production)
- Proton pump inhibitors (potent stomach acid reducers)
- Prokinetics (strengthen LES and increase speed at which the stomach empties)
Making some simple changes can ease mild cases of acid reflux. Four of the most effective lifestyle strategies are:
1. Avoid trigger foods
Foods most likely to trigger acid reflux include:
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
Coffee and tea can be triggers for some people, too.
2. Don’t lie down after eating
Lying down causes gravity to work against you when you have acid reflux. You’re likely to trigger symptoms if you lie down too soon after a meal. Avoid lying down right after eating, and aim to have your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
A full stomach increases abdominal pressure and increases pressure on the LES, raising the risk of acid reflux symptoms. Eating 5-6 smaller meals instead of 3 large meals is a good strategy for combating mild acid reflux.
4. Lose weight if you’re overweight
Excess weight places pressure on the LES, increasing the likelihood of acid reflux symptoms. Losing weight can significantly improve GERD. If you’re overweight, talk to us about what you can do to bring your weight within a healthy range. Even modest weight loss can go a long way in relieving acid reflux symptoms.
Medical procedures for treating GERD
Our gastroenterologists specialize in minimally invasive approaches for treating gastrointestinal conditions, Dr. Reddy’s most common recommendation is lifestyle changes and medications. Surgery is always a last resort. Some common procedures for GERD include:
Typically performed laparoscopically, gastric fundoplication strengthens and reinforces the LES to stop acid from flowing backward into the esophagus.
Transoral incisionless fundoplication
This advanced endoscopic procedure is performed from inside the stomach without incisions. The surgeon reinforces the LES to relieve GERD symptoms.
Treatment for acid reflux can bring relief and reduce the risk of future complications. If you have bothersome digestive symptoms, phone our office in Sugar Land, Texas, to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists.