Relief from GERD this Holiday Season

For thousands of Americans, holiday celebrations may begin with the tempting aromas of savory dishes, only to end in the discomfort of indigestion.

Your family feasts don't have to be a recipe for disaster. Atif Iqbal, MD, Medical Director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, offers some sage advice on enjoying a great meal, without upsetting your stomach.

Gobbling that Leads to GERD

When we overeat, a burning sensation in the chest or throat may result, because the stomach produces more gastric acid than normal when attempting to break down large quantities of food. Persistent reflux can lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). The stomach’s acidic contents “reflux”– return up the esophagus, or food pipe – due to poor closure of the lower esophageal sphincter, or the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.

“For some people, chest pain associated with heartburn is so severe that it’s difficult to distinguish from a heart attack,” says Dr. Iqbal.

One in five people in the U.S. experience the symptoms of this digestive disorder. It often starts with occasional heartburn, and over time, may increase to once a week or more. Other common symptoms include a dry, chronic cough, nausea, difficulty swallowing, chest pain and bad breath.

Over time, GERD can cause more serious health problems, such as scarring of the digestive tract, a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus and life-threatening esophageal cancer. Fortunately, with appropriate treatment, GERD can be cured.

Tableside Tips

If episodes of acid reflux only happen on rare occasions like a holiday feast, an over-the-counter antacid may be all that is needed. To keep food from hampering your holiday, Dr. Iqbal shares that there are many controllable factors when it comes to GERD symptoms.

“I advise my patients to eat smaller portions, more slowly. Instead of passing up your favorite foods, try taking less and skipping seconds,” says Dr. Iqbal. “Spicy, fatty and acidic foods are the most likely to lead to an episode of GERD. Alcoholic beverages and smoking can also contribute to heartburn. So, know your triggers.”

LINX for Relief

Medications have traditionally been the first line of defense against heartburn and reflux, but over time they can produce side effects and may become less effective. Thankfully, a remarkably simple yet effective new solution to cure chronic GERD has emerged – the LINX® Reflux Management System.

Dr. Iqbal and the Digestive Care Center team at Orange Coast Medical Center have extensive expertise with the LINX procedure. Approved by the FDA in 2012, the LINX device is a small bracelet of titanium beads, each with a magnetic core. Dr. Iqbal places the LINX device around the weak, lower esophageal sphincter for support, restoring the body’s natural barrier to chronic reflux.

“LINX is a remarkable advancement in the treatment of GERD. Reflux is gone immediately. There’s no need for liquid diets post-surgery. Patients can go back to eating normal food the next day,” says Dr. Iqbal.

Your Stomach's Best Friend

The team of experts at the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center specializes in surprisingly gentle, yet effective, outpatient procedures. The Center leads the region in advanced, minimally invasive diagnostics and interventions for GERD and other digestive diseases.

If you suspect GERD, talk to your doctor. When symptoms are not relieved by lifestyle changes or medication, the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Centecan help.

Listen to Dr. Iqbal’s podcast on emerging technology and treatments for GERD.