GERD

(Acid Reflux) Treatment

GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by the frequent and persistent backflow of stomach acid and contents into the esophagus. This condition often results in symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and discomfort. Over time, untreated GERD can lead to complications, including esophagitis, ulcers, and even an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and medications are commonly used to manage and alleviate symptoms associated with GERD, while severe cases may require surgical interventions like fundoplication.

GERD symptoms can feel like a burning sensation in the chest that often radiates up toward the throat, commonly referred to as heartburn. It may also involve regurgitation of stomach acid or food, leading to a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. Those with GERD symptoms will often experience the following: 

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Heartburn

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Regurgitation

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Dysphagia

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Chest pain

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Water brash

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Globus sensation

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Odynophagia

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Chronic cough

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Hoarseness

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Wheezing

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Nausea

GERD is primarily caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a ring of muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. When the LES fails to function properly, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus, leading to the symptoms and damage associated with GERD. Several factors can contribute to this weakening of the LES and the development of GERD, including:

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Consumption of acidic, spicy, or fatty foods

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Obesity or excess body weight

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Hiatal hernias 

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Smoking

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Pregnancy

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Calcium channel blockers

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Antihistamines

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Some asthma medications

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Alcohol and caffeine

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Connective tissue disorders

A GERD diagnosis typically revolves around the review of identifiable symptoms and patient history alongside an examination of the patient's habits and diet. Often, initial GERD diagnoses are based on symptom responses to lifestyle changes and prescribed medications. For those who do not get better after medication and lifestyle changes, an upper endoscopy may be conducted to visually examine the esophageal lining, looking for signs of irritation or damage. Additional diagnostic tests such as pH monitoring, esophageal manometry, or barium swallow X-rays may be employed to confirm and evaluate the condition further. 

GERD treatment will typically involve a multifaceted approach tailored to the individual's symptoms and their response to initial interventions. It begins with lifestyle modifications, including dietary changes, smaller meals, and elevating the head of the bed. Different types of medications may be prescribed to help manage GERD symptoms and support lifestyle changes that reduce the condition over time. The choice of medication depends on the severity of symptoms, but more severe or persistent cases may require surgical options like laparoscopic fundoplication or endoscopic procedures. Regular follow-up and ongoing adherence to lifestyle and dietary recommendations are vital to managing GERD effectively.

GERD treatment often involves the use of over-the-counter or prescribed medications to help manage or curb symptoms. Depending on the patient, antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors, with those offered by CallonDoc including: 

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Esomeprazole (Nexium)

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Lansoprazole (Prevacid)

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Omeprazole (Prilosec)

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Pantoprazole (Protonix)

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Rabeprazole (Aciphex)

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Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)

While it's important to stress the need for lifestyle changes and GERD treatment to reduce symptoms, there are a number of home remedies that have proven effective in helping support both measures. Home remedies helpful to reducing GERD symptoms include: 

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Ginger, chamomile, or slippery elm teas

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Aloe vera juice or gel

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Chewing gum after meals

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A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar 

Ongoing management of GERD symptoms will generally be lifestyle modifications supported by prescribed or over-the-counter medications. This includes adhering to dietary modifications, avoiding trigger foods, and consuming smaller, more frequent meals. Elevating the head of the bed and maintaining a healthy weight are essential. Additionally, keeping the body at a healthy weight and making sure to get regular exercise is crucial to avoiding GERD symptoms in the future. Regular follow-up with a healthcare provider helps assess the effectiveness of the chosen treatment plan and make adjustments as necessary. 

GERD prevention primarily involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and dietary choices. To reduce the risk of developing GERD or manage its symptoms, individuals should maintain a balanced diet, avoiding trigger foods like spicy, fatty, and acidic items. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and refraining from late-night eating can also help. Weight management and regular exercise are essential to reduce the risk, as excess weight can contribute to GERD. Additionally, elevating the head of the bed while sleeping, managing stress, and refraining from smoking can further aid in prevention. 

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