Biopsies of the esophagus that are obtained through the endoscope are not considered very useful for diagnosing GERD. They are useful, however, in diagnosing cancers or causes of esophageal inflammation other than acid reflux, particularly infections. Moreover, biopsies are the only means of diagnosing the cellular changes of Barrett’s esophagus. from this source More recently, it has been suggested that even in patients with GERD whose esophagi appear normal to the eye, biopsies will show widening of the spaces between the lining cells, possibly an indication of damage. It is too early to conclude, however, that seeing widening is specific enough to be confidently that GERD is present.
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. 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.
Acid rebound, however, has not been shown to be clinically important. That is, treatment with calcium carbonate has not been shown to be less effective or safe than treatment with antacids not containing calcium carbonate. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of acid rebound is theoretically harmful. In practice, therefore, calcium-containing antacids such as Tums and Rolaids are not recommended for frequent use. The occasional use of these calcium carbonate-containing antacids, however, is not believed to be harmful. The advantages of calcium carbonate-containing antacids are their low cost, the calcium they add to the diet , and their convenience as compared to liquids.
Normally, the LES is located at the same level where the esophagus passes from the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm and into the abdomen. (The diaphragm is a muscular, horizontal partition that separates the chest from the abdomen.) When there is a hiatal hernia , a small part of the upper stomach that attaches to the esophagus pushes up through the diaphragm. As a result, a small part of the stomach and the LES come to lie in the chest, and the LES is no longer at the level of the diaphragm.