House Calls

SPR 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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Those who occasionally fall victim to these symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GER)—also known as acid reflux—may pop an antacid and pass on the spicy wings next time. But about one in five Americans suffer from a chronic, more severe form of acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which heartburn strikes twice a week or more. Over-the-counter meds like the purple pill can provide quick relief, but they aren't intended—or safe—for long-term use. Luckily, a minimally invasive surgery called fundoplication offers an alternative. "It's a great option for many people combatting a chronic case of GERD and can put a permanent end to acid reflux symptoms," says Dr. David Lucas, a general surgeon affiliated with Roper St. Francis Healthcare. Here, he delves deeper into acid reflux, GERD, and your treatment options. "Acid reflux occurs when the acid produced by the stomach flows back up into the esophagus, which is the tube connecting the mouth and stomach," explains Dr. Lucas. This happens when the muscle that acts as a valve between the stomach and esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn't. The result: powerful acid hits the lining of the esophagus, causing that infamous burning sensation and sour taste. For some, the LES may only relax on a Saturday night after overindulging: A stuffed belly can put too much pressure on the muscle and certain fare—anything fatty, spicy, acidic, or alcoholic—can slacken the LES or create extra stomach acid. When acid reflux occurs frequently enough to impact your quality of life, however, it's considered gastroesophageal reflux disease. The cause isn't always known, though being overweight, obese, or pregnant are big risk factors. Certain medicines (from antihistamines to painkillers to antidepressants) can lead to GERD, as can smoking. A common condition called a hiatal hernia—"which happens when the stomach slips up into the chest through a hole in your diaphragm," Dr. Lucas explains—can also be to blame. If you suspect that you have GERD, visit your doctor. He or she may refer you to a gastroenterologist, who specializes in treating the gastrointestinal tract and liver. "Reflux disease can be disabling, and it can lead to bigger problems like dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and esophagitis, when the lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed," 36 { spring 2018 } h o u s e c a l l s I f you're one of the 60 million Americans who experience heartburn once a month or more, you know the drill: A flame starts in your chest, licking up into your neck and throat for minutes to hours on end. It often crops up after a meal or in the dark of night and is accompanied by a sourness that lingers at the back of the mouth. Dr. David Lucas P H O T O G R A P H ( D R . L U C A S ) B Y T A Y L O R J O R D A N PPIs do not relieve heartburn right away and need to be taken once daily on an empty stomach. These powerful medications shouldn't be used unless they're truly needed and could lead to long-term complications. But know this: Benefits: Over-the-counter options include: They don't work as quickly as antacids. Take them 30 minutes before meals that may cause heartburn, or before you go to bed. They'll only last as long as they're in your system—about two or three hours. Used to treat frequent heartburn (two or more times weekly), PPIs both stop acid production and heal esophageal tissue more effectively than H-2 blockers. Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) H-2 blockers Antacids Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC, Zantac 75 Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, Rolaids Preventing the stomach from making acid, H-2 blockers work longer than antacids, and they help heal esophageal tissue damaged by frequent acid reflux. Antacids act fast to neutralize stomach acids, offering immediate relief. Seeking Relief? Three main types of acid reflux medications are sold over the counter. Use this cheat sheet to find one that'll best benefit you. If these treatments don't help, or if your symptoms return for more than two weeks, see a doctor. A LOOK AT ACID REFLUX TREATING THE BURN

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