Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive condition that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back into the esophagus. In most people, this causes the familiar symptom of heartburn. While almost everyone experiences heartburn at some point, many don’t know that they may actually have a more serious condition, which, if left untreated, can damage the esophagus and even increase the risk of cancer.
If you have GERD, or think you might be suffering from the condition, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at LA Integrative Gastroenterology & Nutrition to get the treatment you need.
Common Symptoms of GERD
The severity of GERD symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type of fluid brought up from the stomach. The primary symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea. However, not every GERD patient suffers from heartburn. In cases where heartburn does occur, it is typically located in the center of the chest. The pain may sometimes be sharp and mimic heart pain rather than burning. Heartburn is most common just after patients have eaten.
In addition to heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea, GERD patients may experience:
- Difficultly swallowing
- Chronic dry cough
- Sore throat
- Feeling of something in the throat
- Bad breath
- Ear aches
Common Causes of GERD
GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter – the band of muscle around the bottom part of the esophagus – relaxes or weakens and stops closing properly. When this happens, stomach acid or bile can flow back up, or reflux, into the esophagus. Some of the most frequent causes of GERD include:
- Lower esophageal sphincter abnormalities
- Hiatal hernias
- Abnormal esophageal contractions
- Slow emptying of the stomach
Lower esophageal sphincter (LES) problems may occur for a number of reasons. Some patients have an abnormally weak LES, which is unable to tighten and properly prevent reflux. Other patients may experience LES relaxations. These occur when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes at inappropriate times, allowing acid to return to the esophagus. LES relaxations are most common immediately following meals.
Hiatal hernias are a type of hernia in which the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and up into the chest. It is not entirely clear how these hernias contribute to GERD, but a majority of GERD patients also suffer from hiatal hernias.
Abnormal esophageal contractions contribute to GERD by failing to push stomach acid back into the stomach. And slow emptying of the stomach encourages GERD by prolonging the period of time during which acid reflux is most likely to occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment of GERD
Tests used to diagnose GERD include X-rays, endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe tests, and esophageal motility tests. Our experts will determine which technique is right for you.
Patients have a number of options to choose from when determining treatment methods for GERD. The most common is medication to help to control the heartburn. These drugs include antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and prokinetic agents. In addition to medication, there are a variety of surgical procedures used to treat the disease.
At LA Integrative Gastroenterology & Nutrition, however, we believe that many patients can treat their GERD symptoms simply by looking more deeply into the their diet. To help them do that, we provide one-on-one counseling with a registered dietician to help create a nutritional plan customized to our patients’ needs. By avoiding certain triggers and eating right, many of our patients are able to find relief from their symptoms.
GERD Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When should I see a doctor about my heartburn?
A: Most people experience occasional heartburn. However, chronic heartburn can lead to a number of potentially serious problems. If you experience heartburn more than twice a week, it’s probably time to see a doctor.
Q: Who is most likely to experience GERD?
A: GERD can happen to people of all ages, and it is particularly dangerous for children.
Q: Is there a cure for GERD?
A: There is no permanent cure for GERD. However, with the right treatment, it is possible to effectively manage the symptoms in almost everyone.
Contact a Los Angeles GERD Specialist
Do you experience heartburn two or more times a week? Are you tired of being kept up at night or relying on pills to hold your symptoms at bay? Then contact LA Integrative Gastroenterology & Nutrition. We are experts in treating GERD and other gastrointestinal problems by using a “whole-person” approach to help you heal the right way.
Next, read about SIBO and intestinal infections.