Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

If you are struggling with acid reflux, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease. This article will examine what causes this condition, the risks that can elevate symptoms, and the available treatments.

Contact Dr. Blake Movitz today for help with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Our expert bariatric surgeon provides several treatments at Detroit Weight Loss Center in Southfield, MI.

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition that causes your stomach contents to return to the esophagus. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), it affects about 20% of the population in the United States. While many experience acid reflux from time to time, chronic acid reflux usually leads to GERD.

Chronic acid reflux can damage the lining of your esophagus. This can lead to problems such as scar tissue that narrows the esophagus (esophageal stricture), sores (peptic ulcers) in the esophagus, or even precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus).

What Causes GERD?

GERD can be caused by the weakening or relaxing of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This ring of muscle is found between the stomach and the esophagus. It usually allows food to enter your stomach but prevents stomach acids and the food from returning to the esophagus. When the LES frequently allows acid reflux to occur—this is GERD.

The Symptoms of GERD

The main symptom of GERD is heartburn or acid indigestion that can last for 2 hours. Other GERD symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • A hard time swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Wearing away of tooth enamel
  • A lump in your throat

GERD Risk Factors

Risk factors associated with GERD include the following:

  • Being overweight
  • Hiatal hernia (When part of your stomach enters into your diaphragm)
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Pregnancy


You could also worsen acid reflux through:

  • Tobacco use
  • Eating big meals or late in the evening
  • Eating certain trigger foods like fatty or fried foods
  • Drinking alcohol or coffee
  • Medications like aspirin

How is GERD Affected by Weight Loss?

Since excess weight can cause symptoms of GERD, losing weight can help reduce symptoms.

Diagnosing GERD

You may need a professional diagnosis if acid reflux becomes frequent. GERD can be diagnosed using the following diagnostic methods:

  • Endoscopy: To examine your esophagus using a camera and perhaps a biopsy
  • Upper GI series: A special X-ray to examine your stomach and esophagus
  • Esophageal manometry: Used to test the pressure in your esophagus and evaluate how the muscles contract.
  • pH and impedance testing: To monitor acid levels inside your esophagus.

How Can GERD be Treated?

The purpose of GERD treatment is to reduce acid reflux and the damage that refluxed materials can cause to the lining of the esophagus. Dr. Movitz can help you find the right treatment. GERD treatments may include the following:

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes for Acid Reflux

GERD symptoms may be reduced if you make the following dietary and lifestyle changes:

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Eat less, more often
  • Steer clear of citrus fruits, spicy or fatty foods, peppermint, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and peppermint
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Don’t lay horizontally for two to three hours after meals
  • Use a six-inch pillow wedge to elevate your head when lying down

Medications

Dr. Movitz may also recommend over-the-counter medications such as:

  • Antacids. These neutralize the stomach acid.
  • H-2 receptor blockers. These reduce the amount of acid the body makes. They can offer long-lasting relief.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors. These will block the acid your body makes. This can give the esophagus time to heal.


Prescription medications for GERD treatment include the following:

  • Prescription-strength H-2 receptor blockers
  • Prescription-strength proton-pump inhibitors
  • Prokinetics to help your stomach empty faster

Surgery for Severe GERD

For severe cases of GERD, you may need to consider surgery. Usually, you would have tried all other methods to control the symptoms first. Surgical procedures to treat GERD include the following:

  • Fundoplication: Dr. Movitz will wrap the top of your stomach around the LES to increase the pressure in the lower esophagus. This can be done as a minimally invasive procedure.
  • Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF): This procedure uses plastic fasteners to wrap the stomach using an endoscope to increase the pressure at the LES.
  • Gastric Bypass: Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass is often the preferred operation for patients with obesity and GERD, as it diverts stomach juices away from the esophagus and it reduces pressure in the abdomen through weight loss. 

Recovery and Management

You will likely ease your GERD symptoms by changing your diet and making some lifestyle changes. If you have surgery, then you may need to make the following adjustments during recovery:

  • Week 1: Full liquid diet. You should limit your diet to sugar-free, noncarbonated liquids that are high in protein, and low in carbohydrates and fat.
  • Week 2: Puree diet
  • Week 3 to 6: Soft foods
  • After 6 weeks: You may return to eating regular solid foods.

Book an Appointment Today

Don’t let chronic acid reflux continue to bother you. Book an appointment today with Dr. Blake Movitz at Detroit Weight Loss Center in Southfield, Michigan.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Blake Movitz, MD,  FACS

Dr. Blake Movitz

Dr. Blake Movitz

Fellowship trained from the Mayo Clinic in Minimally Invasive Advanced GI Surgery, Complex Endoscopy and Bariatric Surgery.