Gastric Reflux: How to treat it?
O gastric reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the involuntary passage of stomach contents – usually hydrochloric acid – into the esophagus in the absence of vomiting.
This event is common in healthy adults and is not synonymous with disease, except when the body’s defense mechanisms fail and the episodes are chronic and repeated, causing damage to the esophagus from acidic substances.
How to solve gastric reflux
The esophagus is a type of tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Usually, after a person swallows food, the muscles of the esophagus contract sequentially to direct the food bolus to the stomach.
At the end of the esophagus is a muscle (lower esophageal sphincter) that acts like a valve by relaxing to allow the food bolus to pass into the stomach.
This muscle then contracts and prevents the contents from going backwards.
Gastric reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not function properly, allowing gastric contents to flow back into the esophagus. This can occur sporadically for a number of reasons, including:
- Overweight or obesity;
- Gastric distension (bloated belly);
- High-fat foods;
- Caffeinated beverages;
- Carbonated beverages;
- Person lies on right side after meal;
- Certain medications;
- Hiatal hernia.
The two most common symptoms of acid reflux are:
- Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn);
- Chest pain (difficult to distinguish from heart-related pain);
- Regurgitation (reflux of food from the esophagus or stomach, with a sour, acidic taste).
If the contents of the stomach reach the mouth, it can cause… :
- Sore throat;
- Persistent cough;
- Halitosis (bad breath);
- Tooth enamel wear;
- Sensation of a lump in the throat (cake in the throat).
Sometimes the reflux reaches the lungs, causing coughing and/or wheezing (whistling-like sound when breathing).
Some complications that may arise from this problem include:
- Erosive esophagitis (inflammation of the esophageal lining resulting from frequent exposure of gastric contents to the esophagus);
- Esophageal ulcers.
But the main and most worrisome complication is what is called Barret’s esophagus. This is a change in the cells lining the esophagus, due to prolonged irritation, which becomes premalignant and can sometimes progress to cancer.
Treatment is based on the use of medications that decrease the release of acid from the stomach cells and a change in eating habits.
Commonly used medications are called proton pump inhibitors, namely omeprazole, pantoprazole, lasoprazole, rabeprazole and esomeprazole.
With regard to dietary and lifestyle habits, it is recommended:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals;
- Eliminate consumption of foods that are associated with complaints;
- Don’t drink alcohol;
- Reduce weight, if overweight or obese;
- Avoid meals within two hours of bedtime;
- Raise the head of the bed;
- Do not wear tight clothing or girdles.
When episodes of acid reflux are no longer isolated and begin to occur repeatedly, it is advisable to seek medical attention, as the situation can become more serious, as stomach acids attack the walls of the esophagus and eventually cause damage.
If left untreated, acid reflux can lead to other complications, including ulcers in the esophagus, inflammation, and tooth wear.
In the most severe cases, it can promote the development of cancer.
Surgery, called fundoplication, is a minimally invasive treatment option for gastroesophageal reflux disease for people whose symptoms do not respond to medication or for those with ulcers, bleeding, or esophagitis that persist even after symptoms are relieved.
In patients with Barret’s esophagus, it is imperative to evaluate and follow up with your physician, who may order an endoscopy to ensure that the disease is not developing into cancer.
Care of the diet
Eating habits are deeply linked to episodes of acid reflux. Therefore, it is advisable to follow a few tips:
- Eat slowly and chew food well;
- Don’t overdo the amount of food;
- Opt for lighter, less spaced meals (every two to three hours);
- Don’t eat or drink before going to bed;
- After eating, avoid lying down or staying in a position that presses on the abdomen;
- Avoid onion, garlic, mint, and pepper;
- Avoid spicy foods;
- Avoid processed foods;
- Reduce consumption of potatoes, tomatoes, corn and grains in general;
- Reduce sweets;
- Avoid fried foods;
- Avoid drinking liquids with meals.
In addition, you should opt for a diet rich in healthy foods, namely fresh fruits and vegetables, white meats and spices such as parsley, fennel and ginger.