There is another option besides long-term PPI use for those who suffer from chronic acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD. This serious disease is estimated to affect more than 80 million Americans. Symptoms include heartburn, nausea, sore throat, belching, pain in upper abdomen, asthma, chronic cough and regurgitation.
Left untreated, it can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which tissue that is similar to the lining of your intestine replaces the tissue lining your esophagus, which sometimes develops into esophageal cancer.
Many with this disease are treated with proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs) such as Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec, but long-term use of these drugs is increasingly being linked to serious side effects. PPI use has been linked to pneumonia, micronutrient deficiencies, bone fractures, and risk of infection. Studies have linked long-term use of the acid-reducing drugs to decreased cognitive function, cardiovascular events, and chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
After consulting a gastroenterologist, some GERD sufferers might find that they can pursue a permanent solution that is available for this chronic disease, rather than a lifetime of taking risky drugs. One option is the Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF® procedure), a minimally invasive, medical procedure performed through the mouth with no abdominal incisions. The procedure reconstructs the protective valve between the esophagus and the stomach, which keeps the stomach fluid from backing up into the esophagus, correcting the cause of GERD and eliminating symptoms of reflux.
“Due to its unique approach, most GERD patients who receive the TIF procedure are less likely to experience long-term side effects commonly associated with traditional anti-reflux surgery, such as trouble swallowing, bloating and gas, and are able to return to normal day activities within a few days post-procedure,” said Dr. Anthony Starpoli, associate director of esophageal endotherapy at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City.
According to a press release, a recent study that was conducted at the three-year post-procedure check-up showed promising results, with 71 percent of patients being able to get off PPI treatment completely, 90 percent of patients experiencing relief from regurgitation symptoms, and 88 percent of patients who stopped experiencing any daily atypical symptoms.
“Most importantly, these positive outcomes are a strong indicator of the TIF procedure’s safety and durability, providing patients who no longer benefit from PPI therapy an effective alternative treatment option from chronic GERD symptoms,” adds Dr. Lauren Gerson, director of clinical research, Gastroenterology Fellowship Program at California Pacific Medical Center.
For those who only have mild GERD symptoms and don’t require a medical procedure there are many dietary and lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life. Foods to avoid include: coffee, tea and carbonated beverages; fatty, fried or spicy foods; and citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppermint and chocolate. Eating smaller more frequent meals can also minimize symptoms.
Weight loss can be one of the most significant lifestyle changes a GERD sufferer can make possibly eliminate symptoms. Other lifestyle that are recommended are abstaining from smoking and drinking alcohol, wearing loose clothing, avoiding lying down within three hours of eating, and sleeping with your head elevated six to eight inches.