Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux). Several changes in eating habits can be beneficial in treating GERD. Reflux is worse following meals. This probably is so because the stomach is distended with food at that time and transient relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter are more frequent. click here. Therefore, smaller and earlier evening meals may reduce the amount of reflux for two reasons. First, the smaller meal results in lesser distention of the stomach. Second, by bedtime, a smaller and earlier meal is more likely to have emptied from the stomach than is a larger one. As a result, reflux is less likely to occur when patients with GERD lie down to sleep.
The esophagus of most patients with symptoms of reflux looks normal. Therefore, in most patients, endoscopy will not help in the diagnosis of GERD. However, sometimes the lining of the esophagus appears inflamed (esophagitis). Moreover, if erosions (superficial breaks in the esophageal lining) or ulcers (deeper breaks in the lining) are seen, a diagnosis of GERD can be made confidently. Endoscopy will also identify several of the complications of GERD, specifically, ulcers, strictures, and Barrett’s esophagus. Biopsies also may be obtained.
H2 antagonists are very good for relieving the symptoms of GERD, particularly heartburn. However, they are not very good for healing the inflammation (esophagitis) that may accompany GERD. In fact, they are used primarily for the treatment of heartburn in GERD that is not associated with inflammation or complications, such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus. Capsule pH testing is expensive. Sometimes the capsule does not attach to the esophagus or falls off prematurely. For periods of time the receiver may not receive signals from the capsule, and some of the information about reflux of acid may be lost. Occasionally there is pain with swallowing after the capsule has been placed, and the capsule may need to be removed endoscopically. Use of the capsule is an exciting use of new technology although it has its own specific problems.
Alcohol relaxes the LES, allowing acid to creep up the esophagus, triggering acid reflux. If you have chronic acid reflux, it is best to avoid alcoholic drinks all together. However, if you have mild reflux, limit yourself to just one drink , but avoid cocktails that use sodas or citrus juices as a mixer. For chronic reflux and heartburn, the doctor may recommend medications to reduce acid in the stomach. These medicines include H2 blockers, which inhibit acid secretion in the stomach. H2 blockers include: cimetidine ( Tagamet ), famotidine ( Pepcid ), nizatidine ( Axid ), and ranitidine ( Zantac ).
In fact, reflux of the stomach’s liquid contents into the esophagus occurs in most normal individuals. One study found that reflux occurs as frequently in normal individuals as in patients with GERD. In patients with GERD, however, the refluxed liquid contains acid more often, and the acid remains in the esophagus longer. It has also been found that liquid refluxes to a higher level in the esophagus in patients with GERD than normal individuals. The acid that is supposed to stay in your stomach is more likely to escape into your esophagus when you lie down or bend over, causing heartburn.