Acid Reflux / Taking the heat out of heartburn - From Our Pharmacist - Raley’s Family of Fine Stores

From Our Pharmacist:  Acid Reflux
Taking the heat out of heartburn

Frequent heartburn is not just a nuisance. Without proper treatment, it can lead to swallowing difficulty, bleeding ulcers, damaged vocal cords and even esophageal cancer.

Q: What causes heartburn? A: The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) muscle, which separates the esophagus from the stomach below, usually acts as a one-way valve. In some people, the muscle doesn't close completely, and acid splashes back up into the esophagus where it can eat away at the delicate lining.

Q: How can my doctor help? A: Although GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is rarely life-threatening, your doctor should take a look at you if you have symptoms that occur more than twice a week or that last for months. It's a must to check for other diseases, such as cancer, which could cause similar symptoms and be life-threatening should they go undiagnosed. X-rays and small cameras (endoscopy) allow physicians to see exactly what's going on.

Q: How is GERD treated? A: Although acid-reducing medicines relieve burning in a few days, stomach acid levels have to be suppressed for six to eight weeks to allow raw spots in the esophagus to heal. In addition, lifestyle changes that reduce the likelihood of future acid damage are essential for long-term control. Until recently, only antacids and H2-blockers were sold without a prescription, but with the release of Prilosec-OTC, the more powerful proton-pump inhibitors are now available for self-treatment of uncomplicated GERD unresponsive to others.

Q: What can I do to keep my symptoms from coming back? A: Avoid acidic, fried and fatty foods, foods that reduce LES tone (peppermint, chocolate, spearmint) and foods that increase acid production (caffeine, alcohol, milk). Eat smaller meals and eat at least three hours before lying down. Stop or cut down on smoking and drinking alcohol. Lose excess weight and avoid tight-fitting clothing. Raise the head of the bed with 4- to 6- inch blocks or sleep on a foam wedge.

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