6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make To Help Minimize Your Acid Reflux

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6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make To Help Minimize Your Acid Reflux

Symptoms of acid reflux disease affect more than 60 million Americans monthly. Of those 60 million, it’s estimated that nearly 25 million adults suffer from the symptoms of reflux every day. Since acid reflux symptoms are relatively commonplace, many adults don’t seek treatment or make important lifestyle changes to manage their reflux. Although much of the reflux that people experience is situational or occasional, nearly a quarter of those who suffer from acid reflux experience it on a chronic level as a symptom of an underlying condition called gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD.

Managing GERD-related reflux is difficult without treating the root cause: a weakened lower esophageal sphincter. The only way to achieve long-term relief of your GERD symptoms, including your acid reflux, is to undergo surgical treatment to correct your LES and prevent stomach acid from splashing back up into your esophagus. That being said, there are some lifestyle changes patients can make in the here-and-now to decrease the likelihood of exacerbating their acid reflux.

Avoid Your Triggers

Begin to pay attention to the foods and drinks that seem to incite or worsen your acid reflux disease. Here are a few common “triggers” for those with acid reflux disease.

-        Coffee or tea

-        Anything carbonated or caffeinated

-        Citrus

-        Alcohol

-        Chocolate

-        Mint

-        Fatty or spicy foods

-        Onions and garlic tomatoes

Eat Healthier

Choose low-fat, high-protein foods in exchanges for foods with high carbohydrate or fat content. Cut down on your portion sizes as smaller meals will be easier on your stomach. And finally, pace yourself. When you feel yourself getting full, stop eating. It takes nearly 15-20 minutes for your body to tell your brain you feel full, so eat slowly and mindfully. Be sure to hydrate properly as well.

Eat Earlier

Going to bed with a full stomach can worsen your acid reflux. Eat meals at least 2-3 hours before bed to give your stomach the time it needs to digest before going to sleep.

Choose Looser Clothing

Studies show that tighter clothing or belts can put additional pressure on your stomach, causing your acid reflux to flare up.

Lose Weight

Losing weight has shown to alleviate the effects of acid reflux or eliminate it altogether. Pair a healthy diet with regular exercise for best results.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can create extra stomach acid and make it more difficult to keep the acid down. Quitting can be hard! Talk to your doctor about ways to kick the habit for good and make sure you have a strong support group to help you through the process.

Avoid Alcohol

Trade your nightly destress drink for a long walk, meditation, reading or quality time with loved ones. Avoiding alcohol can help lessen the symptoms of acid reflux.

Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to completely cure your GERD symptoms without surgical treatment, these lifestyle changes will help you to better manage your acid reflux both today and in the future until you’re ready for long-term treatment. Cheers to a healthier, happier life!

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Meet Our Surgeons: Getting To Know South Tampa’s Top Reflux Specialists

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Meet Our Surgeons: Getting To Know South Tampa’s Top Reflux Specialists

Any team is only as good as the people leading it, and we’re lucky enough to have two of the best and brightest at our helm. The Tampa Bay Reflux Center team is led by two of the most experienced foregut and esophageal surgeons in the southeastern United States: Dr. Grandhige and Dr. Tapper. With over 30 years of combined work experience and educations from prestigious universities, Dr.’s Tapper and Grandhige each bring a unique and varied background to our organization.

Dr. Gopal Grandhige specializes in the repair of hiatal, paraesophageal and diaphragmatic hernias, the surgical treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and the laparoscopic management of achalasia, and he’s been at Tampa Bay Reflux Center since 2009. He was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Warner Robins, Georgia.

After graduating from The Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in Biology, he attended the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor to complete his medical school. In 1999, he secured a position in a general surgery residency at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he completed his general surgery residency in addition to a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Foregut and Bariatric Surgery.

During his fellowship training, Dr. Grandhige gained expertise in his area of interest: the minimally invasive approach to the foregut (esophagus, stomach and small intestine). During his training he performed over 300 laparoscopic gastrointestinal procedures including many bariatric procedures, and he currently performs more than 150 anti-reflux procedures per year and is recognized as one of the top reflux surgeons in the country.

Dr. Donovan Tapper is the newest addition to our team. He officially joined the ranks in 2016, but has been working alongside Dr. Grandhige since 2012 after serving for 13 years in the Air Force as an active duty general surgeon.

During his time in the Air Force, Dr. Tapper was assigned to tours in England, Tampa, Iraq, Germany, and San Antonio. His experiences included performing surgery in war zones, as well as in humanitarian disaster areas in Africa. During his assignment in Tampa, Dr. Tapper completed a fellowship in Minimally Invasive and Advanced GI Surgery at the University of South Florida. He has published peer-reviewed articles in the areas of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bariatric surgery, and specializes in the laparoscopic treatment of reflux, hiatal hernia, and achalasia.

Dr. Tapper is one of the kindest men you’ll ever meet, and has considerable experience in a broad range of general surgery procedures with particular interest and training in minimally invasive abdominal surgery to include laparoscopic surgery of the abdominal wall, gallbladder, stomach, colon, and spleen.

Not all surgeons are created equal, and we won the lottery by having Dr. Grandhige and Dr. Tapper on staff at Tampa Bay Reflux Center. Their hard work and character, their passion for the work that they do, and their genuine sincerity (not to mention the fact their fabulous personalities), is part of what makes our organization so special. There are no other surgeons we would rather have leading our team.

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Meet Silent Reflux: The Little-Known Cousin Of Acid Reflux

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Meet Silent Reflux: The Little-Known Cousin Of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux. We all know about it, and most of us have probably experienced it at some point or another. It’s incredibly common in the US, with 60% of the adult population experiencing some form of reflux within a 12 month period and 20-30% experiencing weekly symptoms.

Acid reflux is most commonly associated with a condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (otherwise known as GERD), a gastrointestinal condition caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter. This weakness in the sphincter allows the contents of a patient’s stomach to splash back up into their esophagus, often resulting in chronic reflux and a variety of other symptoms.

What most people don’t understand, though, is that acid reflux isn’t the only type of reflux out there. Laryngopharyngeal reflux (otherwise known as silent reflux) is a condition similar to GERD. It’s caused when the esophageal sphincter works incorrectly, allowing stomach acid up into a patient’s throat or voice box, and sometimes even into their nasal airways. This can cause inflammation in areas that aren’t normally protected against gastric acid exposure.

In many cases GERD and LPR occur together in patients, but it’s also possible for each condition to present on its own. There have been several cases where patients have GERD but no LPR, and many where patients have LPR but no GERD. The causes are similar; the real difference lies in the symptoms.

When you hear “reflux related symptoms”, your mind often goes towards symptoms caused by acid reflux, such as heartburn, regurgitation, dyspepsia, nausea, etc. Similar to its cousin, silent reflux is responsible for a number of symptoms, but many of them are ones you wouldn’t normally think to associate with reflux. Some of the most common symptoms caused by silent reflux are the following:

·      Excessive throat clearing

·      A persistent cough

·      Trouble breathing

·      Difficulty swallowing (otherwise known as dysphagia)

·      Chronic sore throat

·      A “lump in the throat” feeling that doesn’t go away with repeated swallowing

·      A sensation of postnasal drip or excess throat mucus

In many silent reflux cases, patients don’t even realize that their symptoms are caused by reflux. Many actually confuse the source of their symptoms as a recurring cold that they just can’t completely kick. Symptoms of acid reflux tend to be a bit more obvious, and are often easily identifiable. Patients who experience chronic acid reflux symptoms are more likely to get tested for GERD, whereas in many cases patients with silent reflux go undiagnosed.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it’s important that you see a reflux specialist immediately. LPR doesn’t pose a huge immediate danger to patients, but when left untreated can cause long-term damage. 

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Why Heartburn Happens

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Why Heartburn Happens

Heartburn. It’s a term that’s become commonplace in modern America. You’ll see it plastered on antacid billboards, see it over-dramatically acted out in TV commercials, hear it joked about, whined about, or earnestly cried about by friends, family, and even strangers. Over the years, heartburn has become a very present and unpleasant aspect of many American’s daily lives.

The sad thing about heartburn is that, because of its prevalence, many of us simply write it off as a nuisance that has to be suffered. We treat it like it’s a normal part of our everyday lives, when in reality heartburn isn’t at all “normal” to experience. We get so caught up griping about how heartburn feels that we forget to take a moment and determine why it’s happening, then follow that up with the question “how can I make it stop?”

Although it’s not abnormal to experience occasional situational heartburn, such as a bit of heartburn after eating a massive meal on Thanksgiving, if you’re experiencing heartburn 2-3 times a week then there’s something more serious going on behind the scenes.

Heartburn Symptoms

If you suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, then you’re probably all too familiar with its list of accompanying symptoms, the most common of which is the burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone. Some other symptoms include chest pain, burning in the throat, a sour or acidic taste in the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, sore throat, or hoarseness of voice.

Anatomical Heartburn Causes

The sensation of heartburn is the burning feeling associated with the presence of stomach acid or bile in the esophagus. Heartburn is typically caused by GERD, and in order to understand GERD one must understand the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, or LES. The LES is a muscle that acts as a valve and barrier in between the stomach and the esophagus. A normal functioning LES opens when a person swallows and allows food to pass from the throat in to the stomach before shutting tightly. A weak or malfunctioning LES will either not shut completely or will open at the wrong time and allow stomach acid to come up into the esophagus.

Stomach acid is a necessary part of the digestive process, however it is not meant to be in the esophagus. The stomach lining typically has a mucosal barrier that protects itself from being corroded by the acid, but the esophagus does not. Without this protective layer, the esophagus can be damaged or eroded by the presence of acid, and this can lead to long-term problems. For this reason, the LES is an extremely valuable muscle in the digestive tract, and it is very important that it functions properly.

Heartburn Triggers

Diet is perhaps the most common heartburn trigger. It is different for each person, but common foods that cause heartburn are coffee, spicy or greasy food, citrus fruits, marinara and other red sauces, alcohol, chocolate, and peppermint. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are potential triggers.

Exercise and posture can be triggers, too. Abdominal exercises such as sit-ups may increase pressure in the abdomen and activate heartburn. It is important to not exercise on a full stomach. Some yoga positions, jogging, and lying down can cause contents of the stomach to rise into the esophagus and stimulate heartburn.

Complications of Heartburn/GERD

If heartburn and GERD go untreated for a long period of time then potentially serious complications can arise, the most common of which are:

  • Esophagitis: Esophagitis is inflammation or irritation of the esophagus.
  • Pneumonia- Pneumonia is a lung infection with very unpleasant symptoms. It can be very serious
  • Barrett’s Esophagus: This is a type of esophageal damage that is considered pre-cancerous.
  • Stricture: Stricture is best described as a narrowing of the esophagus, and it can cause problems with swallowing and digestion.

The occasional situational heartburn is nothing to worry about, but if you notice that your heartburn is chronic (occurring 2-3 times a week) then it is highly likely that it’s the result of an underlying more serious condition like GERD. Leaving any condition untreated is never safe, and it’s important to discuss your heartburn issues with a reflux specialist to determine what may be causing them and find the appropriate treatment. You can visit the Tampa Bay Reflux Center to discuss diagnosis, testing, and treatment of GERD and other related conditions.

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The Growing Threat Of GERD-linked Esophageal Cancer

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The Growing Threat Of GERD-linked Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer (EC) is one of the fastest growing cancers by incidence, and is one of the most deadly cancers in the US. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. A large portion of those cases will be Adenocarcinoma, a type of esophageal cancer linked specifically to GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

GERD is more than just heartburn.

GERD is a chronic, often progressive disease resulting from a weak lower esophageal sphincter that allows harmful gastric fluid to reflux into the esophagus, resulting in both pain and injury to the esophageal lining. Symptoms of GERD include heartburn and regurgitation, often associated with chronic sleep disruption, and may also include persistent cough, excessive throat clearing, hoarseness and a feeling of a “lump” in the throat.  Acid reflux medications, such as Prevacid®, Nexium®, and Prilosec®, affect gastric acid production, but do not repair the sphincter defect, allowing continued reflux.

GERD can lead to cancer.

What many people don’t know is that, in many cases, GERD can lead to cancer. Patients with chronic GERD can develop a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. An estimated 15% of chronic reflux patients also have Barrett’s esophagus – a condition caused when digestive acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing damage and the growth of pre-cancerous cells. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than three million people in the U.S. have Barrett’s esophagus. When left untreated, patients with Barrett's esophagus have a 40x greater risk in developing adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that is often fatal.

The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is a problem swallowing, with a feeling like food is stuck in the throat or chest, or even choking on food. This is often mild when it starts, and gradually worsens over time as the opening inside the esophagus gets narrower. Additional symptoms can include; weight loss without trying, chest pain, pressure or burning, worsening indigestion or heartburn, coughing or hoarseness, and bleeding in the esophagus.

Get Educated. Get Evaluated. Get Treated.

Esophageal cancer is a very real thing, and unfortunately if you’re a patient with GERD it is something you should keep on your radar. Being educated and informed about the potential risks can go a long way towards prevention and early detection. If you experience GERD symptoms more than twice a week, or continue to have symptoms and/or develop new or worsening symptoms while on medication, consult your physician about the risks of GERD and available treatment options. Your physician can discuss tests available to diagnose GERD including: endoscopy, pH testing, manometry and barium esophagram.

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