A description of your symptoms and knowledge of your medical history is usually enough for your doctor to diagnose a reflux problem. Gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition that many people experience on occasion. A large meal, or eating certain types of trigger foods, can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open spontaneously, or not close a replacement properly. The LES is a ring of muscle that acts like a valve to prevent the release of stomach contents into the esophagus. During an episode of GER, stomach contents can rise up the esophagus and may be tasted in the mouth. Since stomach contents typically contain acid, a burning sensation (commonly referred to as heartburn) is felt in the chest.
Typically acid reflux or GERD is suspected with heartburn. To confirm a diagnosis, medications can be prescribed, and if they are effective in treating the heartburn a diagnosis of GERD is considered confirmed. An endoscopy is also a common way of diagnosing both GERD and gastritis. Other tests such as biopsies of the esophagus, x-ray, examining the throat and larynx and esophageal acid testing and motility studies can also be completed if GERD is suspected. Gastritis can also be diagnosed with a biopsy, upper GI series, blood or stool tests, or testing for the infection, H. pylori.
GERD may be difficult to detect in infants and children , since they cannot describe what they are feeling and indicators must be observed. Symptoms may vary from typical adult symptoms. GERD in children may cause repeated vomiting , effortless spitting up, coughing , and other respiratory problems, such as wheezing. Inconsolable crying, refusing food, crying for food and then pulling off the bottle or breast only to cry for it again, failure to gain adequate weight, bad breath, and burping are also common. Children may have one symptom or many; no single symptom is universal in all children with GERD.
Lifestyle changes can help reduce heartburn and can help maintain a healthy digestive system. Maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate acid reflux caused by pressure on the abdomen and can also help decrease bloating and constipation. Good eating habits can also help avoid weight gain. Avoiding common foods that can lead to heartburn is also helpful. These foods may include fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion and caffeine. Remaining upright for at least two to three hours after eating can help manage symptoms. Avoid smoking, manage stress and get plenty of exercise to help control symptoms as well.
The most conservative treatments for reflux gastritis include dietary modifications to reduce bile production and medications that will limit the body’s production of bile. If the patient does not respond to treatment, the doctor might recommend surgery. During surgery, it is possible to repair the valve or to bypass the problem area to limit the change for reflux gastritis episodes in the future. Surgical recovery can be lengthy, and there are risks, so this usually is not recommended unless it is clearly necessary.