(KUTV) Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, affects more than 60-million Americans at least once a month, and is a daily struggle for 15-million according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Symptoms most commonly occur after eating and worsen when lying down.
“Acid reflux, in most cases, is going to be the symptoms you get after you eat a whole medium pizza or Thanksgiving dinner,” says Dr. Nathan Richards, a Surgeon at Intermountain LDS Hospital.
Most people who have ever had heartburn – have likely reached for the Tums.
“Tums work really well for just kind of a Band-Aid or quick fix for the heartburn symptoms,” says Dr. Richards.
The calcium in Tums binds with stomach acid and helps to relieve symptoms.
“If you’re just having acid reflux every once in a while, once a month, after a big meal every six months or so, Tums is fine,” says Dr. Richards.
If heartburn is more frequent, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about possible treatment options. For the majority of patients, medications work well; but for some, an anatomy problem called a hiatal hernia might be what’s contributing to their symptoms.
“Basically it’s where the top part of the stomach, instead of being in a normal location in the belly, kind of gets pulled up into the chest,” says Dr. Richards.
For these patients, surgery might be a very good option.
“The truth is no amount of medication is going to change that anatomy and so most of the time those patients are going to benefit from the repair of that hiatal hernia,” says Dr. Richards.
If you’re a patient who doesn’t like taking a pill every day, talk with your doctor because surgery might be an option for you as well. Your doctor can also give you some lifestyle recommendations to help relieve some of your acid reflux symptoms. Some changes you can try:
- Avoid foods and beverages that trigger symptoms
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
- Quit smoking
- Don’t eat at least 2-3 hours before bed
- Try sleeping on a slight incline
- Don’t wear tight clothing or belts
- If you’re overweight, take steps to lose weight
If left untreated, chronic acid reflux can lead to serious complications and cause severe damage to your stomach tissue.
“One of the greatest reasons to take reflux more seriously is that when it’s not treated well, or if we ignore it, there’s a risk of developing cancer of the lower esophagus,” says Dr. Richards.