GERD is very common, with about 7million in the US having it, and almost 60% experiencing the symptoms in any one year. The symptoms of GERD are varied and include:
Heartburn (painful burning sensation in the center of the chest)
As well, there is ‘silent reflux’ in which acid washes back up the esophagus without causing any apparent symptoms.
How to treat GERD? Like many health issues, habits play a key role and there are many foods and liquids that contribute to symptoms. The list is noted in our book THE DIETS on page 20.
Beyond this simple list of food restrictions, there is a book that describes in much greater detail the GERD phenomenon and a more complete list of food restrictions for those who have difficult-to-control symptoms. Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure is a great resource and guide that gives you specific instructions and recipes for getting your GERD under control. I highly recommend this.
Of course, standard antacids can help with symptom relief for those with only rare symptoms. TUMS, ROLAIDS, MYLANTA…..can all be effective. Beyond dietary changes, many medications are effective for symptom relief. H2 Blockers (Zantac, Pepcid, Tagamet) are great at helping symptom relief and these are over-the-counter now.
If symptoms are not controlled from the above measures, then using a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) is the next move. Prilosec & Prevacid are the over-the-counter versions and are very effective. Beyond these are prescription versions that can be even stronger, including Nexium, Dexilent, Protonix, and Aciphex.
Taking PPI medications for long-term (more than a few months) has been criticized by some researchers due to concerns of over-treatment of this condition more generally, and specific issues that have been shown by research to be associated with prolonged use of these medications. These concerns include osteoporosis from reduced calcium absorption (mostly in woman who smoke), reduce Vitamin B-12 absorption, reduce Magnesium levels, and an increased risk of infections (pneumonia and C difficile intestinal infections). There criticisms have their validity, but the concerns here are generally modest, and the negative effects of chronic acid on the esophagus causing scarring of tissue requiring dilation (balloon opening) or contributing to esophagus cancer (Barrett’s esophagus) are real and also need to be put into the equation in developing a balanced approach for each individual.
Questions about chronic GERD are best directed to me or your GI specialist, so if you have concerns….let’s talk. That said, do take care of your symptoms and don’t ignore this common condition.