Available treatments for GERD include lifestyle changes, medication, and minimally invasive surgery.
There are many lifestyle changes that you can make to ease your symptoms of GERD and find relief on a day-to-day basis, including:
- Sleeping with head raised
- Avoiding trigger food, such as fatty, spicy or fried foods.
- Not eating prior to bedtime
- Avoid overeating
- Losing Excess Weight
The goal of a medical therapy of GERD is to suppress the acid. GERD is a chronic disease that may require lifetime therapy and a combination of therapies. For instance, many patients will have a treatment plan that includes a prescription medicine or an over-the-counter medicine, in conjunction with lifestyle recommendations, and annual assessments to monitor your symptoms and the progression of the disease.
Chronic reflux does not resolve itself. Anyone requiring medication for more than several months should be evaluated by a physician. Your GERD symptoms, even with relief from medication, could be an indicator of an underlying serious condition. It is important to understand that GERD is a chronic and progressive disease. It tends to get worse with time and requires lifetime therapy.
There are three classes of GERD medications available:
- Antacids - which work by neutralizing stomach acid. They can provide fast relief from occasional heartburn, but the relief is usually short-term.
- H2 Blockers - which reduce the acid production in the stomach by blocking a signal that leads to acid secretion. These can usually be obtained over the counter.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) - these work by turning off some of the acid pumps in the stomach. They are more effective in decreasing stomach acid production than H2 blockers PPIs are available over the counter and by prescription.
All three classes of medicines will usually improve symptoms, like heartburn, in most people. That said, up to 40% of people will continue to experience symptoms on these medications. Additionally, in the case that medications do provide relief, most patients do not realize that their reflux continues beneath the surface. Feeling better does not mean your reflux is cured! Often, maintaining relief requires these medicines for life and does not reduce the risk of cancer.
Surgical Treatment of GERD
There are other therapies available that a GERD sufferer should be made aware of including minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery that restores the function of the faulty valve, stopping the reflux and eliminating the need for medications. Importantly, stopping the reflux possibly reduces the risk of getting cancer.