Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease, also referred to as GERD, is a disease that affects the oesophagus and its lining. You may have GERD if you regularly experience symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, acid indigestion, and some less common symptoms such as chest pain, coughing, and voice hoarseness.
Whilst heartburn affects most of us approximately once a month (especially if we eat quite heavily and have a diet comprised mostly of fatty and fried foods, chocolates, and the like), there are those of us who suffer from heartburn (and other symptoms of GERD) every single day. This is when treatment beginning with certain lifestyle and dietary changes may be required, amongst other treatment options if the condition does not improve or has become too debilitating.
Your First Option in Treatment: Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
If you visit a doctor for the treatment of your heartburn and GERD symptoms, the primary mode of treatment may be to recommend changes in your diet and lifestyle. When it comes to diet, you should know that there are some foods and beverages that should be avoided. This includes chocolate, peppermint, fried and fatty foods, alcoholic drinks, and coffee. If you already have a damaged lining in your oesophagus, you should also avoid citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges (and their juices), as well as tomatoes and chili peppers.
When it comes to lifestyle changes, your doctor may also recommend cutting back on your meal portions as well as making sure to eat at least two to three hours prior to going to sleep. Those who are overweight may also be asked to go on a diet to decrease their weight, as the excess weight sometimes exacerbates the symptoms. Those who are regular smokers are also recommended to quit or at least cut back on their smoking, as the act of smoking itself may weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter. A change in sleeping position may also help – you can elevate your bed’s head by using blocks or a wedge to help reduce heartburn through gravity.
Your Second Option in Treatment: Medication
Some doctors may also recommend taking medication specifically for the symptoms of GERD. Antacids are a common form of medication which can neutralise the acid formation in your stomach and oesophagus. But antacid which is non-prescription often provides only partial or temporary relief. You should also keep in mind that if you use antacids for a long time (more than two weeks, for instance), you may experience such side effects as diarrhoea, magnesium build-up in the body, and a change in calcium metabolism.
If you are experiencing regular acid reflux with heartburn, a doctor can also recommend medicine to reduce stomach acids. These medicines include an H2 blocker, which can prevent the secretion of stomach acids, and an acid pump, which can prevent the production of an enzyme in the stomach cells which also secretes acid.
Your Third Option in Treatment: Surgery
If all else fails and you are still experiencing severe heartburn and other symptoms of GERD, you would need a more thorough evaluation which can determine if you are a good candidate for surgery. If GERD is not treated correctly or if you have been suffering from it for a long time, it is a good idea to consider this option, as long-term complications of GERD include Esophagitis, which can cause ulcers and bleeding in the oesophagus, and Barrett’s Oesophagus, which increases the risk of developing oesophageal cancer. The good news is that anti reflux surgery in London is readily available from trained and experienced specialists such as those from the London Surgical Group.