Working With A Gastroenterologist To Minimize The Effects Of GERD

20 January 2022
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, occurs when the contents of your stomach repeatedly back up into your esophagus. Approximately 20% of people living in the United States suffer from GERD. If left untreated, it can eventually cause additional complications. Fortunately, working with a gastroenterologist can help minimize the effects of GERD.

Changes to Your Lifestyle

First and foremost, your gastroenterologist will suggest certain lifestyle changes that you should follow. For instance, being overweight can increase your likelihood of developing GERD. Therefore, a specialist will likely recommend eating a healthy diet and working out to achieve weight loss. Further, certain foods you eat can trigger symptoms of GERD, so you'll want to avoid the following foods:

  • Processed foods (potato chips, canned meats, etc.)
  • Fatty foods (bacon, sausage, etc.)
  • Pizza
  • Cheese
  • Fried foods and fast foods
  • Foods that are high in acid (citrus fruits and tomatoes or tomato sauces)

Another lifestyle adjustment your gastroenterologist may suggest is to quit smoking. Smoking does the following, which contributes to GERD symptoms:

  • Relaxes the esophageal sphincter — the esophageal sphincter is your body's defense against GERD, so by loosening it, acid is more likely to flow back into the esophagus
  • Reduction in salivation — saliva contains bicarbonates that act as acid-neutralizers, but smoking reduces your body's ability to produce saliva
  • Increased production of acid serotonin — smoking triggers your body to produce more acid

Finally, your gastroenterologist may also suggest better sleep positions. Lying on your back increases the likelihood that acid reflux will occur because it allows the acid to escape from your stomach and into your esophagus. Sleeping on your right side is also bad because the stomach's position is above the esophagus, which allows the contents of your stomach to leak into your esophagus.

Instead, try sleeping on your left side or sleeping at an incline. Position your head approximately 6 to 8 inches off your body when you sleep using a foam wedge or additional pillow to do so. In doing so, you are reducing the amount of stomach acid that can leak into your esophagus.

Medical Treatments

While changing your lifestyle can help reduce the symptoms of GERD, some people may also require medical treatments. A gastroenterologist can suggest certain over-the-counter medications that help neutralize stomach acid, or you can be prescribed medications. There are also surgery options if you do not wish to deal with lifelong medications.

If you would like to learn more about your treatment options, contact a gastroenterologist near you today.