Everyone with GERD is seeking a plan to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. However, it is equally important to stop the potential of disease progression that can lead to Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. Our #1 recommendation continues to be this: find a GERD expert and together develop your personal GERD treatment plan to find relief and good health.
QUESTION FROM PENNSYLVANIA:
I was diagnosed with GERD last year and began taking Prilosec, which didn’t help much. My doctor suggested Zantac and things got worse with some bad side effects. At this time, I am taking aloe vera gels along with papaya enzymes, and they seem to be helping a lot. I have been on these natural remedies for less than a year, but this past week I had some breathing difficulty. I also need to clear my throat frequently, which I didn’t know was also a symptom of GERD. I don’t know my GERD stage and I’m very concerned because I’m only 27. What do you suggest?
Thank you for your question and now is an important time for you to take action. First, learn more about your condition; second, find a GERD expert, and; third, build your personal GERD treatment plan to find relief and good health. Along with your question, you indicated the following: 1) your primary symptoms are heartburn and constant throat clearing; 2) you did not have an endoscopy when you were diagnosed, and; 3) your BMI has you at a very healthy range of 19 to 24.
A GERD treatment plan starts with a quality diagnosis
Your symptoms certainly sound like GERD and possibly LPR, but without a complete examination, your symptoms could be due to several conditions. I suspect that your family doctor or a primary care physician (PCP) diagnosed you based upon a discussion with you about your symptoms. Unfortunately, PCPs do not have the tools to properly diagnose acid reflux disease. More importantly, if you do have GERD, they are unable to determine if your condition has progressed to a more serious stage. This is why we always encourage our visitors and members to have a full work up with a GERD expert.
Fortunately, you have a GERD expert near you and I hope you will consider contacting him. Philip Katz, MD is an interventional gastroenterologist located at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA. In addition, Dr. Katz is the Chairman of the GI Division and Clinical Professor at the Jefferson Medical College. He has all the diagnostic capabilities to fully evaluate you and provide you with every treatment option, including surgery if it is appropriate. He is also one of the few physicians certified to perform the LINX procedure. You can schedule an appointment with him by calling his office at (215) 456-8210 or by using the Einstein scheduling service at (800) EINSTEIN.
GERD treatment plans must be comprehensive
Assuming that you have GERD, at your age it is even more important that you establish a plan to not only eliminate your symptoms, but also to stop the potential for disease progression. Working proactively with a GERD expert, this plan will have several elements. Since your weight is not an issue, we then encourage you to focus on adopting a GERD-friendly meal plan, adopting several lifestyle changes, using safe and less powerful medications such as H2 blockers and antacids, and experimenting with healthy home remedies. To learn more about all of these topics, I encourage you to complete our quick and easy online GERD Stage analysis. After answering several questions you can also download an 18-page personalized PDF document that provides you with both information and recommendations.
If you follow these recommendations, ideally you will reduce or eliminate your symptoms, but it is likely that you will still be refluxing. Consequently, you will need to set up a surveillance plan with your GERD expert to identify disease progression early should it develop. At your young age of 27, you have to plan for 50 to 60 years of reflux, which is the regurgitation of your stomach contents into your esophagus. Unfortunately, this reflux content can contain bile and pepsin that can damage your esophagus and lead to GERD progression and complications. There are several treatments to consider that can stop regurgitation.
When weight management, diet, lifestyle changes, and medications are not effective, think LES procedure
Strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) can be accomplished via two routes: stimulation of the LES or an antireflux surgical procedure. There are two LES stimulation options available today. The EndoStim procedure uses a neurostimulating electronic current to the nerves around the LES, thus increasing the effectiveness of the LES. The Stretta procedure delivers radiofrequency (RF) energy to the LES, which causes the tissue to contract and muscle tone to improve. There are several antireflux surgical options available today, including LINX, Nissen fundoplication, and TIF to mention a few of more popular procedures. You can learn more about these surgical procedures in our article titled “GERD Treatment Procedures at a Glance.”
Caution – Some things to avoid in your GERD treatment plan
There are some things you certainly should avoid at this point. Daily long-term PPI use has serious potential to increase several health risks. More importantly, even if they reduce your symptoms, they will not halt reflux nor stop future disease progression. The second thing to avoid is not taking any action. Too many GERD sufferers consider their symptoms a nuisance and simply ignore them. This, unfortunately, has proven to be a terrible mistake for many as they find their quality of life decline dramatically as they age. This story about Paul will hopefully convince you to take action today! If you have not yet learned about the various stages of GERD, I also highly recommend you read our article “The Progressive Stages of GERD”.
Don’t let another week go by without taking action. You can do this – get started today and build your personal plan for relief.
I hope this helps!