You’ve heard the saying—trust your gut and gut instinct. Our
stomachs are an integral part of our existence.
And if you have stomach problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),
your quality of life can be impacted in a negative way. GERD occurs as
a result of acid from the stomach backing up into the esophagus, due to
the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) not closing properly. The LES opens
to allow food to travel from your esophagus into your stomach for digestion.
How you eat, what you eat and your lifestyle choices can cause the LES
to relax too much—resulting in reflux.
Symptoms of GERD can include feeling a burning sensation in your chest,
having a sour taste in your mouth, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing,
a dry cough or the feeling you have a lump in your throat, according to
James Sattler, MD, a gastroenterologist with Digestive Care Consultants
and Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
Dr. Sattler says it’s possible to minimize the effects of GERD with
manageable changes to your diet and lifestyle. Here are tips he gives
to his patients:
- Eat smaller meals with a between- meal snack
- Stick to a low-fat diet
- Tobacco—if you smoke, cut back or consider quitting reduce your intake
or don’t drink
- Caffeine—cut back or consider decaf
- Don’t eat 1 to 2 hours before bedtime
- Control your weight. Even a loss of 5 to 10 pounds (for someone who is
overweight) can result in a marked improvement for some patients
- Consider raising the head of your bed, by placing 2-inch blocks on the
floor under the head portion of the bed. (This works better than sleeping
on more pillows.)
WHEN TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR
“If you’ve been self-treating with over-the- counter medications
such as antacids, histamine 2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors such
as Nexium and Prilosec, for two to three weeks and you’re still
having symptoms—it’s time to call your doctor for an appointment,
so you can be evaluated and treated,” says Dr. Sattler. “It’s
important to see a doctor as long-term acid reflux can cause changes to
the lining of the esophagus (called Barrett’s Esophagus), which
can raise your risk for developing esophageal cancer,” he advises.
“Patients with long-standing, even mild heartburn often should consider
having an endoscopy to see if these changes are present.
“Some people may benefit from a variety of surgical procedures if
they’re not responding to conservative treatment with dietary and
lifestyle modifications and prescribed medications,” Dr. Sattler
adds. “The medical staff at Torrance Memorial has extensive experience,
using the latest endoscopic and surgical techniques to treat these patients.”