Acid Reflux Symptoms, Treatment & Heartburn Relief

Get the basics about acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD. The fluid in the stomach contains acid that is produced by the stomach. In addition, however, the fluid may contain bile acids (from bile produced by the liver ) and enzymes (produced by the pancreas) that have refluxed back from the duodenum into the stomach. (The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine just beyond the stomach.) The acid that refluxes from the stomach to the esophagus is injurious to the esophagus. There is some evidence, however, that the bile and pancreatic enzymes combined with the acid may be more injurious than acid alone.

GERD causes Barrett’s esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that is located in the chest and serves to transfer food from the mouth to the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a valve that is located at the junction of the stomach with the esophagus. Its function is to prevent acid and other contents of the stomach from coming back into the esophagus. GERD is a condition in which excessive acid-containing fluid refluxes (flows) back into the esophagus, in part because the lower esophageal sphincter is weak. The weakness of the LES may be related, in part, to the fact that virtually all GERD patients have hiatal hernia In patients with hiatal hernia , the upper few centimeters of the stomach slides back and forth between the abdomen and the chest through the diaphragm This sliding may interfere with how the sphincter works as a barrier to reflux from the stomach to the esophagus.

The surgical procedure that is done to prevent reflux is technically known as fundoplication and is called reflux surgery or anti-reflux surgery During fundoplication, any hiatal hernial sac is pulled below the diaphragm and stitched there. In addition, the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes is tightened around the esophagus. Finally, the upper part of the stomach next to the opening of the esophagus click here for info into the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophagus to make an artificial lower esophageal sphincter. All of this surgery can be done through an incision in the abdomen (laparotomy) or using a technique called laparoscopy During laparoscopy, a small viewing device and surgical instruments are passed through several small puncture sites in the abdomen. This procedure avoids the need for a major abdominal incision.

GERD, with or without the presence of Barrett’s esophagus, sometimes is treated by anti-reflux surgery. This operation, called fundoplication, is done to stop the reflux of acid. Fundoplication is not done for the Barrett’s esophagus itself. The operation involves wrapping the upper stomach (the fundus) around the lower end of the esophagus. The purpose of the wrap is to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) in order to prevent the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.There is no evidence that anti-reflux surgery, or for that matter, acid suppression therapy with drugs, decreases the risk of esophageal cancer among patients with Barrett’s. This doesn’t mean that the possibility is not affected, but it would take long term studies to prove that either medical or surgical treatment decreases the risk of cancer, and such studies are not likely to be done.

PPIs are used when H2 antagonists do not relieve symptoms adequately or when complications of GERD such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus exist. Five different PPIs are approved for the treatment of GERD, including omeprazole (Prilosec, Dexilant), lansoprazole ( Prevacid ), rabeprazole ( Aciphex ), pantoprazole ( Protonix ), and esomeprazole ( Nexium ), and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). A sixth PPI product consists of a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate ( Zegerid ). PPIs (except for Zegarid) are best taken an hour before meals. The reason for this timing is that the PPIs work best when the stomach is most actively producing acid, which occurs after meals. If the PPI is taken before the meal, it is at peak levels in the body after the meal when the acid is being made.

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