Heartburn can be extremely uncomfortable. Worse, chronic heartburn could even put you at risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. If you suffer from heartburn, the gastroenterologists at St. Thomas Medical Group are here for you. Learn more about acid reflux management techniques below…
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a condition that occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to close properly after you swallow food or liquid. When the LES relaxes abnormally or becomes weak, stomach acid can move up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Chronic acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include:
- Burning sensation in the chest (sometimes accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth)
- Chest pain
- Lumpy feeling in the throat
- Dry cough
- Sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
Techniques for Managing Acid Reflux
There are several things you can do to reduce acid reflux symptoms. Following these guidelines may even help eliminate symptoms entirely. Talk to your Nashville gastrointestinal specialist at St. Thomas Medical Group to learn more about the lifestyle changes that may be most appropriate for managing your acid reflux.
- Maintain a healthy weight. One study found that women who gained 10-20 pounds had a 3x increase in heartburn symptoms. Losing even just a few pounds (if overweight) may help reduce your symptoms.
- Avoid food/drink triggers. Fatty and fried foods, garlic, onion, mint, tomato sauce, alcohol and caffeine can trigger acid reflux.
- Eat smaller portions. Large meals fill the stomach, causing more pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Don’t lie down after eating. Eat dinner earlier or purchase a wedge-shaped pillow to prop yourself up if you must lie down after eating.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to acid reflux symptoms. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group about quitting.
- Monitor symptoms with a journal. Keep a journal that records what you eat and drink, as well as when you experience heartburn symptoms. By keeping records, you and your physician may be able to identify avoidable triggers.
Upper Endoscopy for GERD Treatment
In some cases, your gastroenterologist may recommend an upper endoscopy for diagnosing and treating GERD. During this procedure, frequently performed at our Gastroenterology Endoscopy Center, a small flexible endoscope is inserted through the mouth to explore and gather images of the upper digestive tract. Patients are sedated during this procedure, which can take five to twenty minutes to complete.