Jon King, MD, is a general surgeon on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 936-5406.
Question: I have been experiencing indigestion more and more frequently, making me concerned about my digestive health. Will you explain what acid reflux disease is and what symptoms are associated with it?
Answer: Acid reflux is experienced by tens of millions of people every day. The primary culprit behind the nagging and painful symptoms of acid reflux is a faulty lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is basically a ring of muscle located at the entrance of the stomach. When the LES is working properly, it closes after food and liquid passes through it into the stomach. If the LES isn’t closing properly or opens at the wrong time, stomach contents and acid can rise up in to the esophagus causing reflux symptoms.
Many of us have experienced the symptoms of acid reflux, which may include heartburn, regurgitation, burping, bloating, hiccups, sore throat, and nausea, to name a few. However, if you experience symptoms of acid reflux more than two times per week, you might want to discuss this problem further with your healthcare provider.
For many people, acid reflux, or officially gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be well-managed with lifestyle modifications and medications, such as avoiding foods or drinks that cause symptoms, eating smaller meals frequently during the day, quitting smoking, or maintaining a healthy weight.
Some patients are better served by a procedure that aims to physically prevent the reflux of stomach contents in to the esophagus. Until recently the only option was surgery, most commonly a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication. Now there is an alternative called transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF).
The TIF procedure is performed using a piece of equipment that allows surgeons to avoid incisions, instead reaching the area through the mouth. The procedure reconstructs a durable antireflux valve and tightens the LES, reestablishing a barrier to reflux and restoring the competency of the gastroesophageal junction. The result is the effective elimination of GERD.
TIF is a completely incisionless procedure, allowing patients to have a shorter hospital stay, reduced discomfort, shortened recovery time and no visible scar.
As mentioned earlier, if you experience acid reflux symptoms two or more times a week despite making lifestyle and dietary changes, or if your symptoms are interfering with your life, see your healthcare provider.