Posted - November 16, 2020

GERD is on the Rise as Obesity is on the Rise

GERD and obesity

But you don’t have to just live with it

Searing heartburn in your chest that wakes you up at night. A feeling like you’re choking that results in coughing and throat irritation. Now you’re trying to go back to sleep propped up a bit, but the burning sensation remains along with a bitter taste in your mouth. If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be one of the millions of Americans who suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD is defined as a more severe form of acid reflux, heartburn or acid indigestion. Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (a muscle at the bottom of the throat) opens spontaneously or does not close properly, and stomach contents rise into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation. Occasional acid reflux is fairly common (hello, spicy foods!) and does not necessarily mean one has GERD. More persistent reflux (occurring more than twice a week) is considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems.

The GERD/Obesity Connection

As obesity continues to be a growing problem in America, GERD is also on the rise. GERD can affect anyone of any age and weight. But certain factors, of which obesity is at the very top of the list, put you at a greater risk of developing the condition.

“Research supports that weight loss, especially in the belly area, can help with GERD. Many of our patients who lose significant weight see their GERD resolve completely.”

Folahan Ayoola, MD

Beyond obesity, other risk factors for GERD include:

  • Lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol consumption
  • Certain conditions such as a hiatal hernia or pregnancy
  • Overconsumption of fatty, fried, sugary foods

How is GERD Diagnosed and Treated?

“Occasional heartburn or acid reflux is common and usually resolves with over-the-counter medications. But when those symptoms occur more frequently (two or more times per week), seem severe or do not respond to medication, it’s time to see a doctor. If left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious complications.”

Tarik Al Kalla, MD

At Weight Loss Specialists, a GERD diagnosis begins with a thorough exam with one of our board-certified doctors, including a review of your personal and family history. If indicated, we may recommend diagnostic testing like an esophageal motility study or pH monitoring. An esophageal motility study gives real-time measurements of the esophagus and its openings at the top and bottom, while pH monitoring allows us to better assess the degree of damage your GERD has caused inside your esophagus. Treatment for GERD varies depending on your unique situation and degree of the condition but may include lifestyle changes such as not eating before bedtime, quitting smoking and a change in diet and eating habits. If these fail to bring the relief you need, there are medications that can help. It is important to note that medications can also have side effects – especially when used long term – making surgery the optimal solution in some patients. Losing weight will always help as well! You may not be able to prevent GERD, but you can make lifestyle changes, which may decrease the symptoms associated with GERD and your risk of developing other, more serious, health problems.

Untreated GERD Can Lead to More Serious Health Conditions

Why is it so important to seek help if you’re suffering from GERD? As stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can cause irritation and inflammation. Over time, complications can develop. The esophagus can narrow, leading to stricture and swallowing problems. Sores or ulcers can develop, which can bleed, be painful and make swallowing difficult. Additionally, precancerous changes can occur to the esophagus, called Barrett’s Esophagus, which is the main risk factor for developing esophageal cancer. The goal of treating GERD at Weight Loss Specialists is not only to decrease bothersome GERD symptoms but also to decrease your risks of developing other, more serious esophageal conditions – including cancer!

Say Goodbye to Try

If you struggle with your weight, you’ve probably tried everything out there – diets, exercise, pills, hypnosis – anything that promises results. But often, these just leave you even more frustrated and disappointed. If you’re tired of trying and failing, we understand. Let’s change that! At Weight Loss Specialists of North Texas, we have solutions. Get ready to say goodbye to try! And say hello to the best version of yourself. Let’s talk and see if weight loss surgery or reflux surgery could be the health solution you’ve been looking for.