Many adults struggle with indigestion or stomach problems and wonder if they are indications of something more significant. Unfortunately, for many, these symptoms are more than an annoyance; they may be an indication of GERD, a progressive chronic condition. Jon King MD, RefluxMD’s GERD expert serving the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, recently responded to one such question. This article was originally posted on the Banner Health Services website titled “Acid Reflux or Indigestion”.
What is GERD?
I have been experiencing indigestion more and more frequently, making me concerned about my digestive health. Can you tell me what is GERD or acid reflux? And what symptoms are associated with it?
Dr. Jon King’s Answer
What is GERD is a question I hear every week. GERD, or acid reflux as it is best known as, is experienced by tens of millions of people every day. The primary culprit behind the nagging and painful symptoms of acid reflux is a faulty lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is basically a ring of muscle located at the entrance of the stomach. When the LES is working properly, it closes after food and liquid pass through it into the stomach. If the LES isn’t closing properly or opens at the wrong time, stomach contents and acid can rise up into the esophagus causing reflux symptoms.
Learn more: What is heartburn? The role of the LES
Many of us have experienced the symptoms of acid reflux, which may include heartburn, regurgitation, burping, bloating, hiccups, sore throat, and nausea, to name a few. However, if you experience symptoms of acid reflux more than two times per week, you might want to discuss this problem further with your healthcare provider.
For many people, acid reflux, or officially gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be well-managed by achieving and maintaining a BMI of 24 or less, with lifestyle modifications, antireflux medications, and adopting a GERD-friendly diet, that also includes avoiding foods or drinks that cause symptoms, eating smaller meals frequently during the day, and eating at least 3 hours before bedtime. I also stress reduced alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.
Some patients are better served by a procedure that aims to physically prevent the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Until recently the only option was surgery, most commonly a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication. Now there is an alternative called transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF).
The TIF procedure is performed using a piece of equipment that allows surgeons to avoid incisions, instead of reaching the area through the mouth. The procedure reconstructs a durable antireflux valve and tightens the LES, reestablishing a barrier to reflux and restoring the competency of the gastroesophageal junction. The result is the effective elimination of GERD.
TIF is a completely incisionless procedure, allowing patients to have a shorter hospital stay, reduced discomfort, shortened recovery time and no visible scar.
Learn more: GERD Treatment: Procedures at-a-glance
As mentioned earlier, if you experience acid reflux symptoms two or more times a week despite making lifestyle and dietary changes, or if your symptoms are interfering with your life, see your healthcare provider.
Jon King MD graduated with a BS in biology from the University of Washington in 1988. He graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1992 and then completed his surgical training at the Phoenix Integrated Surgical Residency in 1997. Jon Dr. King is a general surgeon on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 936-5406.