According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 20% of the total population suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition occurs when the stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube called esophagus which connects the mouth and stomach. This backwash of the stomach acid, also known as acid reflux, can irritate the lining of this tube. People who experience acid reflux more than twice a week are diagnosed with GERD. There are several symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, and coughing which can make this condition an extremely unpleasant one.
GERD is initially treated with over-the-counter medications, but unless it is coupled with lifestyle and dietary changes, it cannot be treated completely. Most people do not seek medical attention for GERD and this tends to eventually result in permanent damage to the esophagus.
11 effective treatments for GERD
- Prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers: These medications are available only by prescription. The H-2-receptor blockers include prescription-strength famotidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine. These medications are well-tolerated but prolonged use of this medication is often associated with a slight increase in the risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency and bone fractures.
- Medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter: The stomach acid often backs up when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes. So, medications like Baclofen can treat GERD by reducing the frequency of relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter. You might experience certain side-effects like fatigue or nausea.
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors: These proton pumps are quite strong and you’ll need a prescription from the doctor to buy these medications. Medications like Nexium 24HR belong to this group. Proton pumps are the enzymes found in the parietal cells of the stomach. They produce hydrochloric acid which is the main ingredient of stomach acid. With the help of proton pump inhibitors, the amount of acid produced by the proton pumps is controlled. The PPIs work best when you take them an hour to 30 minutes before a meal. These are considered the most effective medication for reducing stomach acid.
For proton pump inhibitors like Nexium 24HR, you can even avail of discount coupons on such prescription medications. These coupons make medications more affordable.
- Antacids: These medications neutralize stomach acid, but the antacids alone won’t heal the inflamed esophagus that is damaged by stomach acid. The overuse of antacids can cause side-effects like diarrhea or even kidney problems.
- Medications that reduce acid production: These medicines are known as H-2-receptor blockers and include medications like cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine. These H-2- receptor blockers don’t work as fast as the antacids, but they offer longer relief and decrease acid production in the stomach for up to 12 hours. Stronger medications are available only by prescription.
- Medications to block acid production and heal the esophagus: These medications are known as proton pump inhibitors and are stronger acid blockers than H-2- receptor blockers and enable the esophageal tissue to heal. Over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors include lansoprazole and omeprazole.
- Fundoplication: Usually, GERD can be controlled with the help of medications, but if the condition persists and you wish to avoid long-term medications, the doctor might suggest surgery. In Fundoplication, the surgeon wraps the top of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter, and this tightens the muscle and prevents reflux. This is a minimally invasive procedure.
- LINX device: The LINX device is a ring of tiny magnetic beads which wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The magnetic attraction between the beads is strong and this keeps the junction closed to the refluxing acid. However, it allows food to pass through the junction. This device is implanted using minimally invasive surgery.
- Maintain a healthy weight: In addition to medications, lifestyle changes are a must as well. GERD is more prevalent in adults who are overweight or obese. When there’s excess weight in the abdominal area, it adds to the pressure on the stomach. This increases the risk of stomach acid working back into the esophagus and gives rise to the symptoms of GERD. So, if you are on the heavier side, losing a few pounds will prove beneficial in such cases.
- Know what to eat and what to avoid: What you eat has a major impact on how you manage the GERD symptoms. You should know the trigger foods and drinks and ensure that you exclude those from your diet. Foods like tomato sauce, high-fat foods, and fried foods can trigger GERD. You should also avoid soda, citrus fruit juices, caffeine, and alcohol to prevent episodes of GERD. By limiting or completely avoiding these foods, you’ll experience fewer GERD symptoms. Keeping a food journal can prove helpful in such cases.
- Quit smoking: If you are looking for a reason to quit smoking, then GERD is one of them. Smoking is known to damage the lower esophageal sphincter which prevents stomach acids from backing up. To prevent the symptoms of GERD from surfacing, it is essential to quit smoking.