What Is the GERD Treatment?

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If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, your doctor must have told you that medication alone can’t help you and that you have to make changes to your diet and to your lifestyle in general, if you want to live a normal life, free of symptoms. GERD treatments are mainly symptom-targeted, aiming to reduce the reflux amount and to protect the lining of the esophagus. Because the reflux materials are acid, they attack the esophagus lining, causing damage that can be quite severe. The cause of GERD is the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. There’s not much to do to strengthen it, but one can take preventative measures for avoiding it becoming even weaker. This is why doctors recommend patients to avoid certain foods which can weaken the LES such as chocolate, coffee, alcohol or fats. Another category of foods that should be avoided is the one that irritates the damaged esophagus lining. This category includes citrus fruits, spicy foods, tomatoes and anything else that could intensify the burning sensation.

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A good way to keep GERD symptoms under control is to limit the amount of food you eat at each meal. Always have many small meals a day rather than two or three large ones. Make sure your last meal takes place 2 or 3 hours before you go to sleep for the night, because lying down may worsen your symptoms. Being overweight is also a risk factor for worsening GERD manifestations, therefore sufferers are often recommended by their physicians to lose weight, if they want to be better. Smoking is also very bad for this condition because it weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. This is why smokers suffering from GERD should quit as soon as possible. It’s not easy, but the reward of reducing the acid reflux symptoms is quite big, therefore it could be a very good motivator for quitting smoking.

When resting or sleeping, GERD sufferers should elevate their upper part of the body. There is special 6-inch blocks wedge pillow made for this purpose. It is not recommended to simply stack more pillows under you head, because that will often worsen your condition because this position puts unwanted pressure on the stomach, thus causing its content to pass through the LES back into the esophagus.

People suffering from this condition usually find antacids as an excellent solution for neutralizing the acid in the reflux materials, thus leading to the disappearance of the heartburn sensation. There are many over the counter antacids which do a great job in this respect. They work even better when they are combined with a foaming agent. The reason behind this is that the foam helps creating a barrier that will prevent the stomach content pass through the LES.

Although excellent on short term, the long term use of antacid medication may leads to adverse effects such as diarrhea, calcium metabolism troubles and even to magnesium buildups. If the person is also suffering from kidney disease, magnesium buildups can be very dangerous. Nobody should take antacid drugs for more than 10-14 days without consulting a physician.

Depending on individual conditions of each patient, the doctor may recommend the use of drugs that decrease the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Such medication includes H2 blockers such as citmetidine, ranitidine, nizatidine or famotidine. These are the names of the active ingredients in the drugs. You’ll find those substances under commercial names such as Zantac, Tagamet, Axid or Pepcid.

Another class of drugs, the proton pump inhibitors, acts by inhibiting an enzyme which is responsible for the secretion of the stomach acid. Such drugs include products based on active substances like omeprazole, pantoprazole, esomeprazole, dexlansoprazole, sodium bicarbonate or rabeprazole.

There are also drugs which speed up the stomach emptying. These are called motility drugs and they act upon the superior GI tract. Metoclopramide and bethanechol are among the two most prescribed substances in this class.

What To Do If GERD Symptoms Never Go Away?

If none of the above mentioned GERD treatments or remedies gives results, patients may need to undergo a very detailed physical examination. Doctors will prescribe a series of diagnostic tests in order to be able to determine what actually causes chronic heartburn in those patients.

One of the most used tests is the X-ray one. X-rays of the entire upper gastrointestinal tract are performed, thus enabling the doctors to evaluate the condition the patient’s esophagus, duodenum and stomach. This exam is not used to diagnose GERD per se, but for ruling out other conditions such as ulcers.

Perhaps the most relevant test for diagnosing GERD is the endoscopy. Endoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a camera and a light on the end into the patient’s esophagus. If irrelevant, a biopsy can also be performed.

Sometimes surgery may be indicated, although in most of the cases patients are well-off with medication and preventative measures only.

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