Treatment Options For GERD: Lifestyle Changes And Medications

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD can cause heartburn, coughing, sore throat, pain in your upper abdomen, and in some cases, swallowing problems. While GERD is more common in adults, especially in those with certain risk factors, children can be affected as well. After your healthcare provider performs an examination and talks to you about your medical history, they can recommend a GERD treatment plan for your individual situation. Here are some GERD treatment options that may help relieve your symptoms. 

Lifestyle Modifications

Certain lifestyle modifications can greatly relieve your GERD symptoms. For example, obesity is thought to play an important role in the development of GERD because excess abdominal fat can put pressure on your stomach. When this happens, stomach acid can be pushed up into your esophagus and throat, causing symptoms.

Losing weight can dramatically decrease your symptoms, as can avoiding certain foods and drinks that can contribute to acid reflux disease. These include spicy foods, coffee, oranges, grapefruit, dark chocolate, and tomatoes. Foods high in fat and sugar may also contribute to your symptoms. Your doctor's GERD treatment plan may also include limiting your intake of alcohol because it can cause stomach acid to back up into your throat. 

GERD Medications

In addition to making lifestyle changes, certain medications can also help relieve your GERD symptoms. These include over-the-counter antacid medications that typically contain calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, or aluminum hydroxide. They are typically well-tolerated, however, you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking them to make sure they will not interact with the other medications you may be taking. If these medications are ineffective, your doctor may recommend histamine H2 receptor antagonists, also called H2 blockers.

H2 receptor antagonists include famotidine and cimetidine, and while these medications are available over the counter, your healthcare provider can prescribe a stronger dose of the same medications. Another GERD treatment option is to take proton pump inhibitors, also called PPIs, which can relieve your GERD symptoms by inhibiting the production of stomach acid.

While medications can manage your acid reflux symptoms, their effects may wear off over time. Because of this, your primary care doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a physician specializing in GERD and other gastrointestinal and digestive disorders. In extreme cases, stomach or esophageal surgery may be recommended. 

If you have any of the above symptoms, see your healthcare provider for a checkup to determine if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease. Early intervention and an individualized GERD treatment plan can help relieve your symptoms and may help prevent esophageal erosion damage.

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