Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Northwest Arkansas

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, usually shortened to GERD, is a term that refers to the result of untreated acid reflux in a patient.

Acid reflux is defined by a single occurrence or experience of acid regurgitation from the stomach into the esophagus, known as heartburn.

A person is often diagnosed as having a mild case of GERD when they experience acid reflux one time (or fewer) a week or a moderate-to-severe GERD when they have symptoms at least twice per week. GERD can present at any time in your life, but it typically presents at close to 40 years of age. When left untreated, patients have been known to come to progress to a complication known as Barrett's esophagus. If you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease, we strongly recommend that you see a gastroenterologist at GI Alliance of Arkansas in Arkansas as soon as possible.

All food, drinks, and medication you swallow pass through the esophagus and beyond the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) into your stomach. When the LES grows compromised, it can lose strength and fail to stop stomach acid from entering back into the esophagus. There is very rarely a single underlying cause in GERD cases; however, you have a greater potential of developing GERD if you meet any of the below conditions:

  • Use of tobacco
  • Being overweight
  • Coffee consumption
  • Hiatal hernia (when the upper portion of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm)
  • Pregnancy
  • Eat raw onion or garlic
  • Scleroderma (a connective tissue disorder)
  • Consume spicy foods
  • Eat large meals late at night
  • Lie down often after eating
  • Use of alcohol

The primary symptoms of GERD are very much like those experienced with acid reflux, but they may occur more often. These symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquids
  • Poor-quality sleep
  • Chest pain
  • Asthma
  • Bloating
  • Dysphagia
  • Lump-in-the-throat sensation
  • Persistent cough
  • Laryngitis

You should arrange a visit with a gastroenterologist at GI Alliance of Arkansas as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms regularly or are in pain, or if you take over-the-counter heartburn medication more often than twice within a week.

To treat GERD, your physician may recommend a series of medical interventions, lifestyle modifications, or both. Treatment approaches to help avoid or alleviate GERD in Arkansas patients include:

  • Remain awake and stand up after eating
  • Medication to strengthen the LES
  • Quit smoking
  • Tell your GI specialist about current medications you are taking
  • Lose excess weight
  • Non-prescription antacids
  • Sleep on an incline
  • Do not consume foods and drinks prone to cause acid reflux (see the list above)
  • Eat in moderation and slowly
  • Prescription-strength antacids (H-2 receptor blockers)
  • Fundoplication (surgical procedure performed to wrap the stomach around the LES)
  • Limit caffeine/coffee intake
  • LINX® device (magnetic beads wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus)
  • Avoid eating at least two hours prior to going to bed
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What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?

The variation between acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease may seem perplexing. But GERD is simply acid reflux that happens more than once a week for a prolonged period of time. If you have heartburn or other symptoms every day or more than once throughout the week, or you experience symptoms that do not improve with over-the-counter medications, it could be due to GERD.

What foods should I avoid if I am diagnosed with GERD?

Foods that increase the accumulation of stomach acid should possibly be avoided if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease. These food items may include:

  • High-fat foods
  • Onion
  • Red meat
  • Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits
  • Spicy foods
  • Salty or peppery foods
  • Caffeine
  • Garlic
  • Sugary foods

Our GI Alliance of Arkansas team can provide additional information on the foods to avoid if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Is GERD a life-threatening condition?

GERD is not considered life-threatening. It may make day-to-day tasks more challenging at times, but you should be able to alleviate symptoms with treatment. Without care, gastroesophageal reflux disease may lead to additional gastrointestinal issues. Such concerns may involve esophagitis (irritation of the lining of the esophagus) and Barrett’s esophagus, a disease that damages the esophagus (the tube that links the mouth and stomach). Seeking the treatment you need for this condition can help safeguard your GI health and wellness.

How long might it take for GERD to improve after beginning treatment?

Several factors determine how long it may take for gastroesophageal reflux disease to improve. These include the type of medicine you take, how much damage has been caused by GERD before being diagnosed, and if you avoid foods and drinks that increase its symptoms. With proper care, GERD symptoms should wane over time. Though you may not be able to resolve gastroesophageal reflux disease completely, you can likely gain control over its effects.

GERD is a very common issue that is felt on a daily basis by millions of individuals. With professional treatment, however, the condition can be treated and its uncomfortable symptoms relieved. If you or someone you love lives with GERD, the board-certified team of gastroenterologists at GI Alliance of Arkansas is available to help. We urge you to set up an appointment at our practice to find treatment for GERD in Arkansas.

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