Dr. John Hyatt, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, sees about a hundred patients each year who suffer from acid reflux. He recently spoke to them and other people interested in acid reflux during his “Beat the Burn” seminars in May with more seminars scheduled in June and July.
Acid reflux happens when some of the acid in your stomach flows up into the esophagus.
“Acid reflux can be a misdiagnosed and is an underdiagnosed problem,” Dr. Hyatt says. “Many people have acid reflux problems, but they don’t seek care from a physician. Instead, they treat themselves with over-the-counter medication.”
He says patients don’t always recognize the symptoms of acid reflux. For example, one of Dr. Hyatt’s patients kept going to a cardiologist, complaining of chest pain. Apparently, that chest pain didn’t have anything to do with his heart—it was a symptom of acid reflux.
In fact, heart burn or regurgitation are the two most common signs of acid reflux. Other symptoms include: coughing, wheezing, nausea, chronic hoarseness and a chronic cough.
Learn more about acid reflux by registering for one of Baylor Scott & White’s “Beat the Burn” seminars all throughout June and July.
Dr. Hyatt says acid reflux can be treated by making dietary changes or taking pills for the reflux (such as Prilosec OTC® or Gaviscon®).
For example, spicy foods, drinking too many acidic beverages (such as orange or grapefruit juice) or eating a heavy meal before bedtime could cause acid reflux.
Some patients would rather take the pills and not change their diet.
“There are two different types of people—those who want to change their diet and those who would rather just take pills,” Dr. Hyatt says. “I generally recommend a combination.”
He also encourages patients to “eat moderately.”
“It may not be the food you eat, but the quantity of what you eat,” Dr. Hyatt says. “Instead of having three cups of coffee, have one. Have a beer, but not four. Don’t get that second serving of lasagna.”
Long-term reflux isn’t life threatening. A small percentage of people can develop pre-cancerous symptoms in the esophagus. Another small percentage of people can develop complications with esophagus scarring, which can make it difficult for them to swallow their food.
If you feel like you’re suffering from symptoms of acid reflux, here are Dr. Hyatt’s recommendations of what you can do to feel better:
- Examine your diet. Are you eating a lot of spicy or acidic food? Drinking too much caffeine or acidic beverages? See how you feel if you cut back or eliminate certain foods or drinks.
- Try using over-the-counter medications to see if that helps alleviate your symptoms. Instead of using antacids, try proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec OTC or Gaviscon (with clearance from your physician).
- Finally, always consult your primary care physician to talk about your symptoms.
This blog post was contributed by Jessica Levco, writer and editor of Health Care Communication news.