This is the second article of an eight-part series on acid reflux remedies and how to select the right plan for you to find relief. In the first article we focused on the proper diagnosis. In this article we discuss the importance of determining your GERD stage before you begin designing your plan. Far too many GERD sufferers select a treatment plan from available cures for acid reflux without knowing the stage of their disease. Like so many other chronic conditions, available and effective treatments are different at varying stages or disease progression.
It seems as if many of our members are on a journey similar to that of Alice in Wonderland:
ALICE: Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?
THE CHESHIRE CAT: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
ALICE: I don’t care where.
THE CHESHIRE CAT: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.
ALICE: …So long as I get somewhere.
THE CHESHIRE CAT: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
If you sometimes feel like Alice, then consider RefluxMD’s approach to building your plan. It is based upon asking eight questions, and the first one is important; it will also add a GERD expert to your team. An expert is essential for helping you identify all your treatment options and assist you with your decisions as you sort through all the possible cures for acid reflux. However, remember that it is YOUR disease, it can impact YOUR quality of life, YOU are responsible to make the final decisions, and YOU should be knowledgeable about your condition and all treatment options available. As we will highlight below, your GERD stage will have a significant impact on the treatment options that are the best for you.
In this article we will focus on the second of these eight questions:
- Do you really have GERD?
- What is your starting point?
- Is your weight optimal?
- Are you eating properly?
- Are you using the medications appropriately?
- Have you made the right lifestyle choices?
- Have you tried home remedies?
- Are you considering surgery?
Let’s get started!
QUESTION #2: What is your starting point?
Before RefluxMD was even a concept, Tom DeMeester, MD FACS, the leading global expert on GERD, had developed his understanding of this disease’s progression path and its differentiated stages. Dr. DeMeester and RefluxMD’s medical advisors designed a series of questions for anyone to identify and understand their GERD stage. This online tool, RefluxMD’s Stage Finder, to date has been accessed over 60,400 times by our members in only a few years! Those members were informed of their disease stage and they were provided personalized information on all available treatments in a PDF report.
Why is this important? Because like Alice above, to build a path to relief and good health, you need to know where you are today along with an “achievable” goal. That destination is very different for someone who effectively manages their symptoms with medications, as compared to another individual with Barrett’s esophagus. So let’s look at the various stages of GERD and briefly discuss what treatments are available, the effectiveness of each, and the associated risks.
Stage I – Early GERD
As is the case with so many chronic conditions, stage I GERD can be easily addressed with natural and safe treatments. Stage I, in simple terms, is anyone experiencing GERD symptoms more than 2 – 3 times a month over a 6-month period AND their symptoms are satisfactorily managed using antacids and H2 blockers intermittently. In general, it is possible that the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) has lost some of its “barrier” capabilities, but most of the time fine. In some cases, large meals or increasing weight gain are starting to put stress on a healthy LES.
Treatment Options Available at Stage I.
Of the many purported cures for acid reflux, continued treatment with antacids and H2 blockers, two of the less powerful antireflux medications, should continue to provide relief for some time, and in many cases, indefinitely. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium and Prilosec, are more powerful and can be used, however they are unnecessary and introduce several potential negative side affects. However, understanding the cause of these symptoms and then treating them is considered the safest and healthiest approach.
There are many potential causes of GERD, but a weakened LES is the definition of GERD. The risks of damaging or weakening the LES are outlined by the Mayo Clinic and are listed below:
- Bulging of top of stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
- Dry mouth
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
Of these, the most common today is excess weight and obesity. In fact, the National Institute of Health provides these facts about obesity in America:
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
The best recommendation for many adults to manage GERD symptoms and to avoid disease progression is weight loss and weight management. That is the primary reason RefluxMD created Recipe for Relief: A GERD-friendly food plan and diet program. Among the other cures for acid reflux symptoms in this stage, several lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation; reduced consumption of alcohol, and eating three hours before bedtime are highly recommended by most specialists.
Risks To Consider.
The biggest risk is to ignore your symptoms and do nothing to address the underlying causes. Without attention, your acid reflux may progress resulting in more frequent and painful symptoms. Masking your symptoms with antireflux medications will provide short-term relief, but again, your condition may progress to stage II. The lowest risk with the highest benefits is weight management, diet modification and lifestyle changes. Continue Reading.