Help for Your Heartburn

People of all ages, including children, experience heartburn or acid reflux at some point in their lives. The symptoms typically occur after an unusually heavy or spicy meal. Some people, however, experience heartburn much more frequently, and it may not be directly related to meals.

Our bariatric specialist, Mustafa Ahmed, MD, of Southern Nevada Bariatrics in Las Vegas, Nevada, understands how frequent heartburn symptoms can interfere with your enjoyment and quality of life.

Here’s what Dr. Ahmed says about treatment-resistant heartburn and how our therapies can help.

Understanding heartburn

Heartburn that is severe or occurs more than once a week is actually a symptom of gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). This common digestive disorder affects about one-third of adults in the United States according to a nationwide online study conducted by Cedars-Sinai’s Health Service Research.

GERD occurs when stomach contents, which can be quite corrosive, flow upwards into the long tube-like structure (esophagus) that carries food and liquid from your mouth to your stomach. This acidic flow irritates the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus and results in the burning discomfort that’s often described as heartburn.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Chronic nighttime cough
  • Discomfort that worsens with lying down
  • Frequent belching or burping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat

These symptoms can occur more frequently and intensify as the disease progresses and damage to the esophageal lining increases.

What causes GERD?

The acid reflux associated with GERD is caused by weakening of a band of muscular tissue called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

The LES is designed to block stomach acids from flowing back up into your esophagus by closing tightly after you swallow liquids or fluids. When the LES fails to close tightly enough, stomach contents move into the esophagus and can cause significant damage over time.

Who is at risk for GERD?

Certain conditions increase your risk of developing GERD, including:

  • Obesity
  • Hiatal hernia, which causes the top of the stomach to bulge upward
  • Pregnancy

Delayed stomach emptying (gastroparesis) can also cause GERD and may be due to certain medical problems such as diabetes, medication side effects, or a viral infection.

Lifestyle habits that can worsen acid reflux include:

  • Smoking
  • Regular consumption of spicy, fatty, or fried foods
  • Use of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin

Large meals, especially those close to bedtime, can also aggravate GERD symptoms.

Treating GERD

After a thorough evaluation to identify the cause of your GERD, Dr. Ahmed takes a comprehensive approach to treating GERD. Your treatment plan may include medication to decrease stomach acid production and help heal the esophageal lining.

Dr. Ahmed also takes time to carefully review your diet and make recommendations for changes in nutrition or lifestyle habits that may be contributing to your symptoms.

As a bariatric surgeon and weight-loss specialist, Dr. Ahmed may also suggest various effective weight-loss programs, including bariatric surgery, designed to help you overcome the challenges of obesity, which is one of the leading causes of GERD.

You don’t have to live with heartburn. Schedule an evaluation with us at Southern Nevada Bariatrics today.

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