As many as 20% of people in the United States have chronic symptoms of acid reflux, and many more may be living with the condition without a proper diagnosis.
At West Houston Surgical Associates, experienced bariatric surgeon Christopher Reilly, MD, FACS, has extensive experience in treating people with acid reflux. He offers surgical weight loss solutions to address acid reflux and chronic acid reflux, known as gastroesophageal reflux syndrome (GERD), that’s not treatable with conservative therapies.
The root cause of acid reflux
Acid reflux describes the backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus. The acids are able to move upward due to dysfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve meant to keep acids in the stomach.
Normally, the esophageal sphincter closes when foods you eat move down into your stomach. When the valve doesn’t close properly, the acids flow back up into your throat and mouth. Valve dysfunction may be related to age-related changes in the esophagus or:
- Alcohol use
- Hiatal hernia
- Certain medications
- Spicy, minty, or rich foods
The acid backflow leads to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that can be severe enough to interfere with your quality of life.
8 primary acid reflux symptoms
Many people will experience symptoms of acid reflux at some point in life. For some, symptoms may become severe and chronic.
Acid reflux symptoms include:
Heartburn describes a burning sensation you feel in your chest, especially after you’ve eaten or when you’re lying down. Heartburn can be severe enough to interfere with good quality sleep, leading to insomnia or fatigue.
Nausea is a common side effect of acid reflux due to the sour taste of the acids in your mouth. You may also notice that you burp and cough frequently due to irritating stomach acids, which can also cause nausea and vomiting.
3. Chest pain
In addition to heartburn sensations, some with acid reflux experience a more serious pain in their chest area. This type of chest pain can indicate there’s a more serious underlying condition present and you should always consult with your primary care physician for an evaluation to rule out heart issues or other underlying health conditions.
4. Gum inflammation
When stomach acids come back up through the esophageal tract and into your mouth, they can irritate your gums and cause persistent and painful gum inflammation. Chronic acid backflow can even wear away the enamel of your teeth without proper oral hygiene.
5. Sore throat
The backflow of stomach acids irritate the lining of your gastroesophageal tract and cause inflammation that makes your throat feel sore.
6. Difficulty swallowing
Because of esophageal inflammation, you may find it more difficult to swallow food, drink, or saliva. You may also feel like food is stuck in your throat after eating.
7. Hoarse voice
The persistent inflammation in your esophageal tract makes your throat feel sore and it may also affect your voice. Those with GERD often have a hoarse or scratchy voice, or experience discomfort when talking.
8. Bad breath
The backflow of sour stomach acids in your mouth often leads to chronic bad breath (halitosis). Even with proper brushing and use of a mouthwash, bad breath can continue if stomach acids aren’t neutralized.
How bariatric surgery treats acid reflux
As a bariatric surgeon, Dr. Reilly can determine if bariatric weight loss surgery is a treatment option for your acid reflux or GERD.
Surgery is often recommended if you’re obese and have persistent acid reflux or GERD symptoms that aren’t relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medicines. You may qualify for bariatric surgery if you aren’t able to lose sufficient amounts of weight through diet and exercise.
Before treating obesity-related acid reflux with surgery, Dr. Reilly also examines your diaphragm to identify a hiatal hernia that may contribute to your acid reflux. A hernia occurs when your stomach pushes through a weakness in your diaphragm muscles and allows stomach acids to flow up into your esophagus.
If you’re trying to lose weight but chronic acid reflux symptoms are making it difficult for you to be physically active, schedule a bariatric surgery consultation with Dr. Reilly. You can call West Houston Surgical Associates or request an appointment online today.