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Acid reflux will affect almost everyone at least once in a while, but for many people it is more than an occasional inconvenience. People with GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, suffer from the painful symptoms of acid reflux frequently and often need to turn to medication or other treatment options to find relief. Acid reflux surgery provides people with a long-term solution to this chronic problem.

What causes acid reflux?

Many factors can increase the risk of acid reflux and the exact causes aren’t clear. What we do know is that acid reflux occurs when stomach acids and food flow back up into the esophagus from the stomach, often causing a burning sensation in the chest. In a healthy digestive system, a muscular valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus should prevent this reflux from happening. If the LES malfunctions, either from added pressure on the stomach or because the muscle of the LES has been weakened, reflux can occur.

Treating GERD with acid reflux surgery

Acid reflux surgery addresses the underlying problems that allow reflux to occur, specifically targeting the weakened LES. The most common types of acid reflux surgery are:

  • Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication: this procedure requires a series of small incisions and special surgical instruments to repair any hiatal hernias and strengthen the juncture between the stomach and esophagus. The top portion of the stomach is essentially wrapped around the lower part of the esophagus and sutured into place.
  • Incisionless Fundoplication using EsophyX: this procedure requires no incisions and involves inserting an EsophyX, a special surgical instrument, into the mouth and down the esophagus. The EsophyX is then used to create and fasten folds in the stomach around the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition caused by the backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus. The strong stomach acid causes irritation to the lining of the esophagus, the food pipe leading from the mouth to the stomach, and the patient experiences the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. Although a common occurrence, when people notice stomach acid reflux more than twice a week it may interfere with everyday life and cause damage to the esophagus, requiring medical attention.

Commonly felt symptoms include a sour taste in the mouth accompanied by a burning sensation in the chest. Some people notice a regurgitation of food or sour liquid as the strong stomach acids back up into the food pipe. Any pain accompanied by shortness of breath or pains spreading to the arm or jaw could be signs of a heart attack and require immediate medical attention.

Patients in Ft. Myers, Florida, and elsewhere have found lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods and remaining upright after meals along with over-the-counter medications can remedy most minor cases of heartburn. When heartburn and acid reflux become frequent and severe and doesn’t respond to these strategies, a doctor may diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and look at medical treatments.

In cases of GERD, the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus is weakened or improperly working and allows acid and food to flow back up the esophagus. This sphincter normally opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, and then closes to keep the stomach contents confined to the stomach. Factors that aggravate the condition include obesity, diabetes, pregnancy, smoking and some other medical conditions.

A variety of medications that neutralize or reduce the production of stomach acids are available both by prescription and over-the-counter. In severe cases, surgery may be required. Alternate therapies include acupuncture, relaxation techniques and herbs.

Heartburn: Do you need acid reflux surgery?

Heartburn symptoms typically come on soon after eating a heavy meal, spicy foods, or having exposure to other heartburn triggers. Symptoms vary by each individual, but often include burning in the chest, a cough, hoarseness, or even asthma when food or acid in the stomach back-washes into the esophagus. However, people who have delayed gastric emptying may feel the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease hours or even days later. Both chronic and delayed heartburn can unleash havoc on a person’s quality of life. Luckily, if you are one of those people who experience delayed heartburn there are some things you can do to minimize your symptoms.

  • Maintain a food diary. For several consecutive days, record everything you drink and eat, including how you feel afterwards. After a few days, you’ll likely notice a pattern, which will help you determine which foods cause you to have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease symptoms and which don’t. In some cases, you may have to look back at your food diary for several days to see what triggered your symptoms. For instance, garlic is a known delayed heartburn trigger.
  • Eliminate fatty foods, coffee, and alcohol as well as late-night meals.
  • Reduce your stress level. Stress is a known heartburn trigger, so do whatever you can to reduce your stress.
  • Change dietary habits. Learn to chew your food more slowly, eat smaller meals, and eat foods that are low in fat.
  • Use over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medications can help to neutralize stomach acid which in turn can help reduce your heartburn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease symptoms. Alternatively, try a home remedy such as a glass of milk or piece of bread.
  • Speak to your Bradenton Florida physician. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a proton pump inhibitor, or PPI, which lowers your stomach acid. With a proper diet, exercise regime, and lifestyle changes a PPI may only be needed temporarily.

Heartburn is a frequent problem for many people, and for some the pain appears hours or even days after the trigger adding confusion to the discomfort. If your heartburn is not controlled by medications and diet change, Acid Reflux Surgery may be the solution.