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America Asks About Heartburn & GERD

The Secrets of Managing GERD and Heartburn

Is it time to get serious about your GERD?
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GERD Treatments: Self-Care Tips continued...

Can lifestyle changes be a person’s onlyGERD treatment? Experts disagree. Some believe that lifestyle changes can be enough on their own; others think that they should be added to medication. Talk to your doctor about the best approach in your case.

Some people opt for lifestyle changes because they don’t like the idea of being on lifelong medication. Al Kenny, a GERD sufferer from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., says he prefers to control his GERD with a better diet instead of his PPI. But it’s hard to find the motivation.

“My medicine lets me eat almost anything, which is the good news,” Kenny says. “But the bad news is that it works so well that I’m really not too careful about what I eat. So I can’t stop taking the drug.”

GERD Treatments: Surgery

Surgery for GERD can be effective. But because PPIs control symptoms so well, Rao says, rates of GERD surgery in the U.S. are falling rapidly.

Still, some patients -- Rao estimates less than 1% of all people with GERD -- might need it. Experts say that candidates for GERD surgery are people who

  • Get some relief from medication, but still have symptoms anyway
  • Can’t or won’t take GERD medication
  • Already have complications, like Barrett’s esophagus, from GERD

Considering that the surgery does have a small risk of serious complications, it’s crucial that you get a correct diagnosis. You’ll need an endoscopy and probably other tests to make sure that you really do have GERD. To be certain, you may also want to consider a second opinion.

Finally, when finding a surgeon, choose someone with a lot of experience doing the specific operation you need. Waring recommends that he or she have a track record of at least 200 procedures.

The Importance of GERD Treatment

If you have GERD, there are a lot of effective ways you can control it. While newer, powerful over-the-counter medicines are one option, Cheskin notes a serious downside.

“These drugs provide such effective relief that there’s much less incentive for people with undiagnosed GERD to seek medical help,” says Cheskin.

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How effective is your heartburn or GERD medicine?