Heartburn & Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, is a progressive condition that is characterized by acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. It is estimated that approximately 20% of people in the U.S. have GERD, although it can be difficult to determine the exact number of people affected by GERD because many may not realize they have it or may not seek treatment1. The initial stages of the disease may present as common heartburn or indigestion, but if left untreated, GERD can lead to serious health complications, including Esophageal cancer and respiratory problems.
Is It Heartburn, Acid Reflux, or GERD?
Heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably and they are symptoms of GERD, so it can be confusing to differentiate them. If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux and you think you may have GERD, it can be helpful to understand the differences between these conditions:
- Heartburn is an unpleasant burning sensation in the throat or chest. It is not caused by the heart, but is actually a digestive issue and it is a symptom of acid reflux. Many people experience occasional heartburn after indulging in spicy, acidic, or fatty foods.
- Acid Reflux causes heartburn and can also result in a sore throat or a cough. Acid reflux occurs when the muscle in the opening of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), fails to tighten, allowing stomach acid to splash back into the esophagus. Chronic acid reflux is a primary symptom of GERD.
- GERD People who experience chronic heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week may be diagnosed with GERD. Over-the-counter antacids and medications may fail to ease GERD symptoms and the progressive symptoms can damage long-term health.
What Causes GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by a malfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a muscle that works to open and close the esophagus. When we eat or drink, the LES relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach. If the LES is weakened or abnormal, it can relax intermittently and allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. This causes acid reflux symptoms, and frequent or severe acid reflux indicates GERD
- Frequent heartburn
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Acidic or sour taste in the mouth
- Dry cough or need to clear throat
- Upper abdominal discomfort or nausea
Patients suffering from GERD may notice that symptoms are frequent after eating or worsen at night.
Do You Suffer From Heartburn Symptoms Relating to GERD?
Take our GERD self-assessment quiz to learn if treatment at DFW Bariatric Institute could help you find long-term relief from acid reflux and heartburn.
Lifestyle Changes To Prevent GERD Symptoms
If you experience heartburn or acid reflux, there are lifestyle changes that can curb discomfort, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications that may ease symptoms. Recommended lifestyle changes include:
- Weight Loss if BMI is over 25
- Quitting smoking
- Eliminating Alcohol consumption
- Avoiding foods that are spicy, acidic, or fatty
- Refraining from eating before lying down
Gastric Bypass Surgery to Treat GERD
What do you do when lifestyle changes or medication no longer provide relief from acid reflux? GERD is a progressive disease and as it accelerates, medicines may become less effective. The experienced bariatric surgeons at DFW Bariatric Institute specialize in Gastric Bypass surgery, which can treat or prevent GERD.
How Does Gastric Bypass Work for GERD Patients?
Gastric Bypass, also known as Roux en-Y surgery, is a bariatric surgery that has been proven very effective for weight loss2. In this procedure, which our surgeons typically perform laparoscopically to minimize incisions and recovery time, the stomach is reduced in size and the digestive tract is rerouted. In addition to treating obesity, studies have found that gastric bypass can also significantly improve acid reflux and GERD symptoms, with results that are comparable to anti-reflux surgeries such as Nissen fundoplication3. Learn more about gastric bypass surgery.
Contact DFW Bariatric Institute
If acid reflux is interfering with your quality of life, we may be able to help. Contact the GERD specialists at DFW Bariatric Institute to learn more or schedule a consultation at one of our convenient locations in Colleyville, Frisco, or Rockwall, Texas.
1 El-Serag HB, Petersen NJ, Carter J, et al. Gastroesophageal reflux among different racial groups in the United States. Gastroenterology. 2004;126:1692–1699
2 Journal of the American Medical Associations. 2004;292(14):1724-1737. doi:10.1001/jama.292.14.1724
3 Canadian Journal of Surgery. 2014 Apr; 57(2): 139–144. doi: [10.1503/cjs.030612]