GERD Center

GERD Treatment

People diagnosed with GERD and its complications should be monitored closely by a doctor. Several treatment options for GERD are currently available. However, GERD is a chronic condition that tends to wax and wane in intensity and relapses are common. Treatment will be based on the severity of damage caused by GERD. It is usually best to start with the least invasive treatment option and work towards more invasive procedures, because relief may be a few simple steps away. Some doctors urge who exhibit only mild symptoms of GERD to change diet and the manner of sleeping, for example.  Less invasive options allow you to avoid surgery or medication before they are necessary.

Treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease attempts to reduce the abnormal reflux of stomach acid and juices into the esophagus, to prevent or treat injury to the lining of the esophagus, to prevent GERD from recurring, and to prevent other conditions that might arise as complications of GERD. The goals of treatment in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are the following:

  1. Heal and prevent the relapse of mucosal lesions (i.e., esophagitis)
  2. Prevent complications of long-term esophagitis (strictures, ulcerations, bleeding and columnar metaplasia)
  3. Relieve the symptoms of GERD

Antacids continue to be a primary course for treating GERD.  These include antacids (such as Tums), H2 blockers (such as Pepcid), or proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec OTC). While the effects of antacids are not long lived, they work by neutralizing stomach acids.  Once neutralized, there are no acids to reflux.  The most effective way to take antacids is about one hour after a meal, or shortly before symptoms begin. Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium may induce constipation or diarrhea.  This can be avoided by alternating the types of antacids.

Simple solutions are sometimes the best.  By varying eating habits, you might help reduce symptoms associated with GERD. Simply eating smaller meals or avoiding certain foods can help.  Some foods to avoid include chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, caffeine, spicy and acidic foods (anything fried). Some people believe that chewing gum may neutralize acid before it gets to the stomach, so it might be worth a try after asking your doctor's recommendations.. 

Simple lifestyle changes may offer relief from gastroesophageal reflux disease.  Most cases of GERD occur at night, because the force of gravity does not provide additional pull of reflux acid down towards the stomach.  The simplest way to change the way that you sleep is to elevate the body slightly when sleeping.  You can raise the head of the bed on blocks, or sleep with a wedge.  You may also experience relief when lying on the left side instead of the right.

Over-the-counter preparations provide only temporary symptom relief. They do not prevent recurrence of symptoms or allow an injured esophagus to heal. They should not be taken regularly as a substitute for prescription medicines and may be hiding a more serious condition.

Medication can lessen the effects of GERD and allow you to live with much less discomfort and pain.  Histamine antagonists such as Tagamet work by decreasing acid production in the stomach.  Histamines bind to the receptors forcing the cells to produce acids.  This method works best 30 minutes before meals because. Proton pump inhibitors are a new type of drug designed for acid related diseases.  Prilosec, the most well known brand, uses this by blocking the secretion of acids into the stomach.  This also works at protecting the esophagus from acids, allowing inflamed areas to heal. Both of these treatments for GERD started as prescription only, but are now available over the counter.   If over-the-counter-medications are needed for more than two weeks at a time to help control symptoms, consult a physician for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

  • Foaming agents
  • Histamine antagonists
  • Prokinetics
  • Promotility agents
  • Proton pump inhibitors

In more extreme cases, when GERD cannot be helped with over the counter treatments for GERD, a person may have to consider surgery.  Surgery works to widen the esophagus via laparoscopy surgery through the abdomen. The results of GERD surgery are very good at treating symptoms in up to 80% of people.   Endoscopic treatment is a second option that can be performed without hospitalization, however, long-term results are less documented.

If you suffer from GERD, there is no reason to continue living with pain and discomfort.  Starting with minor changes, and working to more aggressive treatments for GERD, there is relief in sight.  Work with your doctor to find the treatment right for you.

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