The Most Effective Ways to Manage Acid Reflux

The burning pain of acid reflux can be intolerable, even when you take over-the-counter medications. If you’re desperate for relief, and you’re overweight, the team at Bay Surgical Weight Loss in St. Petersburg, Florida, can help. In fact, if you’re obese, bariatric surgery may be your best and only treatment option.

Acid reflux symptoms and complications

Acid reflux occurs when acid flows out of the stomach and up into your esophagus. A round muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) normally opens to let food into the stomach, then closes tightly to keep acid and food particles inside the stomach.

When the LES muscle weakens or relaxes, or when abdominal pressure against the muscle is overwhelming, the LES opens when it shouldn’t. As a result, contents from your stomach escape and get into your esophagus. This backward movement of stomach contents is called acid reflux.

You may know acid reflux by its more common name, heartburn, which perfectly describes the condition’s top symptom. As acid flows into the esophagus, it creates a burning pain in your chest and sometimes in your throat. You may also experience symptoms such as regurgitation (stomach contents make it all the way up to your mouth) and dyspepsia (belching, feeling full, nausea, stomach pain).

When acid reflux becomes a chronic problem rather than an occasional discomfort, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may have GERD if your heartburn occurs more than twice a week or when reflux symptoms worsen. Difficulty swallowing and coughing are also signs of GERD.

Chronic acid reflux is a serious health concern. Ongoing exposure to stomach acid causes esophageal inflammation and can lead to complications such as bleeding, esophageal narrowing, an esophageal ulcer, and precancerous changes in the cells lining your esophagus.

Obesity is closely associated with acid reflux

Acid reflux arises from several causes, including being overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight increases abdominal pressure against your stomach and the LES muscle. Additionally, obesity-related hormones are known to weaken the esophageal muscle.

If your BMI is 25-30 (overweight), your risk of acid reflux doubles. When your BMI is 30 or higher, which is considered obese, you have triple the chance of developing acid reflux.

Effective ways to manage acid reflux

Treatment for acid reflux begins with medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). All of the medications in this group work by binding to structures in your stomach called proton pumps. As a result, PPIs block acid production and reduce the amount of stomach acid.

Several PPIs are available at your local pharmacy, while others are only available by prescription. No matter which type you use, it’s important to strictly follow the instructions to obtain optimal results. You also shouldn’t take over-the-counter PPIs longer than 14 days.

If PPIs don’t help relieve your heartburn, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 30% of patients still have symptoms despite taking PPIs. You have this problem, called refractory GERD, when your symptoms don’t improve after taking a PPI twice daily for at least 12 weeks.

When PPIs don’t work, other types of prescription medications may help. Beyond medication, three laparoscopic procedures are the top options for managing acid reflux:

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, may be the best option if you’re obese, and you meet the qualifications for bariatric surgery.

You’re a potential candidate for bariatric surgery if you meet these guidelines:

 

  • History of trying to lose weight without success
  • History of losing weight but gaining it back
  • Body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or more than 100 pounds overweight
  • BMI of 35 or higher with one or more obesity-related health problem

Obesity-related health problems include:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Gastrointestinal disorders

Laparoscopic bariatric surgery may be the only surgical option for some patients. Depending on your BMI, you may not be a good candidate for the other top acid reflux treatments: the LINX® reflux management system and Nissen fundoplication.

LINX reflux management system

The LINX system consists of a flexible band of titanium beads containing a magnetic core. Your doctor places the band around the LES muscle. It’s designed to expand to let food pass through, then the magnetic attraction between the beads closes the muscle to keep acid inside your stomach.

Nissen fundoplication

This procedure strengthens the LES muscle by wrapping the top part of your stomach around the esophagus, then sewing it into place. Nissen fundoplication is a laparoscopic procedure performed using small incisions in your abdomen. A similar procedure, called transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF), is done using an endoscope inserted through your mouth.

If you’re overweight or obese, and you suffer from acid reflux, the team at Bay Surgical Weight Loss can help you find long-term relief. Call the office or book an appointment online.

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