Our Gastroenterology Blog

Posts for tag: Acid Reflux

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
July 08, 2022

Wondering if you could have GERD?

Are you living with acid reflux? If you deal with this problem rather frequently, you could have a chronic condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s more common than you know, and you could have it. Here’s what you should know about GERD,

What is GERD?

Every time you swallow food, your stomach produces acid to aid digestion. In a healthy gastrointestinal system, a valve in the esophagus opens to allow food and acid to pass from the esophagus to your gut. In those with GERD, the valve that allows food to pass through it may not close fully or open far too often, which can cause these acids to travel back up into the esophagus. If this happens regularly, the lining of the esophagus can become irritated and even damaged.

What Are the Symptoms?

While everyone will probably experience heartburn at some point, you will likely deal with chronic or persistent heartburn if you have GERD. Everybody is different when it comes to their symptoms. Besides heartburn and acid reflux, which are the two main symptoms of GERD, other symptoms include,

  • Sore throat
  • Problems swallowing
  • Belching
  • Gum inflammation
  • Throat irritation
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic bad breath
  • A bitter taste in the mouth

When Should I See a Gastroenterologist?

It isn’t always easy to know when to visit a gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Of course, if you’ve been dealing with heartburn that occurs twice or more during the week, if your heartburn is only getting worse, if you have trouble swallowing or if heartburn wakes you up at night, then it’s essential that you get your symptoms checked out.

How is GERD Treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce and even eliminate your symptoms while also helping give the esophagus a chance to heal itself. There will be specific lifestyle changes you will need to make to improve your symptoms, such as,

  • Avoiding or limiting spicy, fatty, fried and acidic foods
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Losing weight if obesity or being overweight is a factor
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Not eating about two to three hours before bed
  • Not lying down immediately after eating
  • Avoiding shirts or belts that are too tight or put too much pressure around the middle

Certain medications will also be prescribed to help you manage your symptoms better and to help repair the damage done to the esophagus. Surgery may be recommended if you’ve tried all other non-surgical options, but nothing has managed your GERD.

Don’t ignore your acid reflux, especially if you’re dealing with it twice a week. If so, you owe it to yourself to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to find out if you could be dealing with GERD.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
June 09, 2022
Tags: Acid Reflux  

Learn more about acid reflux, its signs and triggers, and when to see a doctor.

Acid reflux happens to everyone, but what should you do if this becomes a common occurrence? You may be wondering what in your diet is triggering acid reflux, and you may want to sit down with a gastroenterologist who can help you figure out why you’re experiencing frequent bouts of acid reflux. It’s important that you don’t just ignore this problem.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach travels back up through the esophagus. While the esophageal sphincter is supposed to prevent food from traveling backward if the sphincter doesn’t function properly, acid reflux often occurs. As a result, acid reflux often causes heartburn and burning in your chest and throat. While acid reflux and heartburn are often used interchangeably, acid reflux and heartburn are different.

What triggers acid reflux?

The most common acid reflux triggers include,

  • Eating a heavy meal, especially right before bed
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Spicy, fatty, and acidic foods
  • Certain medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers

Why acid reflux is a cause for concern?

While acid reflux on its own isn’t usually anything concerning, if you are experiencing acid reflux at least two or more times a week, it’s important that you seek care from a qualified gastroenterologist. Frequent or recurring acid reflux can signify gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If left untreated or improperly treated, this chronic condition can lead to severe complications, including esophageal cancer and swallowing disorders.

Over-the-counter antacids aren’t enough; you’ll need to turn to a gastroenterologist who can prescribe the proper medication or procedure to correct weak or damaged sphincter muscles.

How is acid reflux managed?

Lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods and eating smaller meals can undoubtedly go a long way to improving symptoms. Patients who are overweight or obese will also find that symptoms improve by losing some weight. Your gastroenterologist may recommend a lower-acid diet while also prescribing an acid blocker. Surgery to repair the sphincter muscle may be advised in more severe cases.

Is acid reflux impacting your diet and affecting your quality of life? If you love eating out or cooking, you may find that acid reflux is cramping your style. This is a sign that you could benefit from turning to a gastroenterologist.

By NASHVILLE GASTROINTESTINAL SPECIALISTS
December 31, 2018
Category: GI Conditions

Though many people never know they have one due to lack of symptoms, a hiatal hernia can cause complications which can affect your daily life. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this condition can help you spot its presence, alert your gastroenterologist, and get the treatment you need.

What is a hiatal hernia?
Your chest and abdomen are separated by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The esophagus passes through a small opening in the diaphragm and brings food from the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the hole and begins bulging out of the other side, into the chest. Though small hiatal hernias are often nothing to worry about and do not produce symptoms, larger hernias may cause potentially serious complications.

Do I have a hiatal hernia?
A small hernia often does not produce any symptoms at all. However, larger hernias can cause some issues that can affect your day-to-day life:

  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Regurgitation of foods (into the mouth)
  • Acid reflux
  • Vomiting blood or passing black stool
  • Shortness of breath

If you think you have a hiatal hernia, you should see your doctor to ensure that you receive the care you need.

How does a gastroenterologist diagnose a hiatal hernia?
It is not uncommon for a gastroenterologist to find a hernia while investigating the cause of heartburn, abdominal pain, or other symptoms. Some diagnostic tools they may use include x-rays or upper endoscopy. They will also gather your medical, family, and lifestyle history to further investigate the cause of your symptoms.

Hiatal Hernia Treatments
If a person with a hernia does not experience any symptoms or complications, they may not need any treatment at all. However, if the patient begins experiencing discomfort, their doctor will probably suggest beginning treatment for their condition. Medications, such as antacids or medication to reduce the body’s acid production, can help with symptoms of a hernia. In more severe cases, a surgical procedure to repair a hernia or make the hole in the diaphragm smaller may become necessary.

Your gastroenterologist can help you find the best treatment plan for you. If you think you have a hernia or are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as recurrent acid reflux or heartburn, you should speak with your doctor.

If you ever chewed gum as a kid then you probably remember an adult telling you not to swallow that gum or else it would get stuck in your intestines. Is this actually true or just an Old Wives Tale? What happens if you do swallow your gum? Could it cause you intestinal distress or other complications now or down the road?

Well, the good news is that most people, at some point during their lifetime, will swallow gum and never experience any issues. Even though the body really can’t digest chewing gum it doesn’t mean that it will get stuck inside the body or will cause gastrointestinal issues. Even if our bodies cannot digest something they can still move the gum along through the body. While the body can easily digest other ingredients found in gum (e.g. sweeteners), the foundation or gum resin won’t be able to be digested properly. But don’t worry; this undigested portion of chewing gum should pass through your body without issue and leave through a normal bowel movement.

However, it is possible that gum may cause a blockage within the digestive system. How? While this is very rare, it is possible that if you swallow a rather large piece of gum (or if you swallow multiple pieces over a short span of time) that this could lead to a blockage. This may be more likely to occur in children, especially children that are too young to understand that gum should be chewed and not swallowed. Make sure that your child isn’t given gum until they fully understand the purpose of chewing gum.

Of course, if you notice some bloating or abdominal discomfort after chewing gum then you could point your finger at this seemingly innocent treat. This is because you might be swallowing excess air while chewing gum, which can lead to some pain and discomfort. If you notice this issue then you may want to limit how often you chew gum or opt for sucking on a mint instead.

If you have questions about your gastrointestinal health or if you start to experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or nausea that doesn’t go away, then it’s important that you have a gastroenterologist on your side who can help.