GERD is a problem that is symptomatic by day but in which much damage is done by night.
Treatment should be designed to:
1) eliminate symptoms;
2) heal esophagitis; and
3) prevent the relapse of esophagitis or development of complications in patients with esophagitis.
In many patients, GERD is a chronic, relapsing disease. Long-term maintenance is the key to therapy; therefore, continuous long-term therapy, possibly life-long therapy, to control symptoms and prevent complications is appropriate. Maintenance therapy will vary in individuals ranging from mere lifestyle modifications to prescription medication as treatment.
- Heartburn is a common, but not trivial condition.
In fact, if left untreated, longstanding, severe and chronic heartburn has been linked with esophageal cancer. Don’t ignore frequent heartburn — instead consult with your physician regarding an endoscopy and treatment to achieve early symptom resolution.
- If you suffer infrequent heartburn, antacids, or H2 blockers (now available without a prescription) or proton pump inhibitors (pending release at reduced strength over-the-counter dosages) may provide the relief you need.
- If you are experiencing heartburn two or more times a week, you may have acid reflux disease, also known as GERD, which, if left untreated, is potentially serious.
- If you are self-medicating for heartburn two or more times a week, or if you still have symptoms on your over-the-counter or prescription medication, you need to see a doctor and perhaps be referred to a Gastroenterology.
- GERD has a physical cause that’s not your fault and can only be treated by a physician.
- If left untreated, longstanding, severe and chronic heartburn/GERD has been linked with esophageal cancer. Don’t ignore frequent heartburn — instead consult with your physician regarding an endoscopy and treatment to achieve early symptom resolution.
- GERD has a significant role in asthma, chronic cough and ear, nose and throat problems — all referred to as extra-esophageal manifestations (EEM) although this connection may often go unrecognized. GERD should be actively considered in physician evaluations of these conditions, or it could go undetected.
- With effective treatment, using the range of prescription medications and other treatments available today, you can become symptom free, avoid potential complications and restore the quality of life you deserve.
Doctors find that infrequent heartburn can be controlled by lifestyle modifications and proper use of over-the-counter medicines.
Suggested lifestyle modifications
- Avoid foods and beverages that contribute to heartburn: chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy or spicy foods, tomato products and alcoholic beverages.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco inhibits saliva, which is the body’s major buffer. Tobacco may also stimulate stomach acid production and relax the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, permitting acid reflux to occur.
- Reduce weight if too heavy.
- Do not eat 2-3 hours before sleep.
- For infrequent episodes of heartburn, take an over-the-counter antacid or an H2 blocker, some of which are now available without a prescription.
All treatments are based on attempts to
a) decrease the amount of acid that refluxes from the stomach back into the esophagus, or
b) make the refluxed material less irritating to the lining of the esophagus.
Other lifestyle modifications and tips
In order to decrease the amount of gastric contents that reach the lower esophagus, certain simple guidelines should be followed:
- Raise the Head of the Bed. The simplest method is to use a 4″ x 4″ piece of wood to which two jar caps have been nailed an appropriate distance apart to receive the legs or casters at the upper end of the bed. Failure to use the jar caps inevitably results in the patient being jolted from sleep as the upper end of the bed rolls off the 4″ x 4″.
- Alternatively, one may use an under-mattress foam wedge to elevate the head about 6-10 inches. Pillows are not an effective alternative for elevating the head in preventing reflux.
- Change Eating and Sleeping Habits. Avoid lying down for two hours after eating. Do not eat for at least two hours before bedtime. This decreases the amount of stomach acid available for reflux.
- Avoid Tight Clothing. Reduce your weight if obesity contributes to the problem.
- Change Your Diet. Avoid foods and medications that lower LES tone (fats and chocolate) and foods that may irritate the damaged lining of the esophagus (citrus juice, tomato juice, and probably pepper).
- Curtail Habits That Contribute to GERD. Both smoking and the use of alcoholic beverages lower LES pressure, which contributes to acid reflux.
Do let us know whether the above tips and lifestyle modifications help you fight your GERD and heartburn symptoms. And do use refluxlog to track your GERD triggers and log all your acid-reflux and heartburns. It would help your Doctors in diagnosing your heartburns effectively.