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Acid Reflux/GERD

DHI Has Some of the Region’s Foremost Experience In Managing & Treating Acid Reflux Diseases

Acid reflux is a growing problem in 21st century America. It can be experienced as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux, known sometimes as “silent reflux” because it mimics other conditions. No matter where you are in your treatment journey for a reflux condition, the gastroenterologists and complex surgeons at the Digestive Health Institute can make sure you have the right level of care. Many patients find reflux relief from medicine and lifestyle changes. However, some patients require a more permanent approach such as an operation that will cure their acid reflux once and for all.

Almost all of us experience reflux from time to time, mostly as heartburn. The condition is caused when stomach contents move back up into the esophagus, or the food tube. When these acidic stomach contents come up, they can cause a burning sensation in the chest and abdomen. When reflux occurs very often or causes severe symptoms, it could be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • Frequent heartburn or chest pain, experienced as a burning pain in the lower part of the middle of the chest and in the mid-abdomen
  • Dry cough
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Hoarseness
  • A bitter taste in the mouth or back of the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing

Reflux that regularly occurs more than twice a week, causes symptoms or damages the esophagus is considered GERD. If not properly treated, this condition can eventually lead to more serious health problems, including esophageal cancer. People can have GERD at any age.

The Causes of GERD

GERD is often the result of the valve between the esophagus and the stomach not working as it should. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It is responsible for allowing food to pass into the stomach when eating. It is also supposed to keep stomach contents from coming back, or refluxing, into the esophagus. However, when the LES does not close correctly or when it opens while you are not eating, opens too often, or opens for long periods of time, reflux can occur.

Many factors can contribute to GERD, including:

  • The LES valve not working as it should
  • Food being held up or delayed while moving down the esophagus
  • The contents of the stomach remaining there too long before moving to the small intestine
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • A hiatal hernia, caused when the upper part of the stomach and the LES move above the diaphragm (the muscle wall that separates the abdomen from the chest). The presence of a hiatal hernia can weaken the LES. Hiatal hernias are very common and are found in about half of people over the age of 50, although people of any age can have one.
  • Diet. Foods that commonly worsen reflux symptoms include citrus fruits, chocolate, drinks with caffeine or alcohol, fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions, spicy foods, and tomato-based foods such as spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili, and pizza.

How GERD Is Diagnosed

To properly diagnose GERD and determine how severe it is, your doctor may order some tests. These might include:

  • Upper Endoscopy (EGD) – This test lets your doctor look inside the esophagus and stomach to see if anything is abnormal.
  • Bravo pH Study – This test involves a tiny device placed in your esophagus for 48 hours. While you go about your normal activities, the device measures when and how much acid comes up into your esophagus.
  • Barium Swallow Radiograph – This test uses X-rays to look for abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia and other structural problems of the esophagus. You will drink a solution before the X-rays are taken. This test can show if you have any narrowing of the esophagus, called strictures, as well as ulcers.
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Study – This test examines how well food moves down your esophagus. You will swallow bites of food – a bagel and a marshmallow – with your head upright and then down at a 15-degree angle. This test is important if you will be having surgery to treat GERD because it helps determine what kind of procedure you need based on your esophageal motility.

If you have been told that you could have acid reflux or GERD and would like to be evaluated by a DHI gastroenterologist, call us at (813) 615-7557.



At DHI, we know that after being diagnosed with cancer, patients want and often need to begin treatment quickly. So we make it a priority to offer appointments for cancer surgery consultations within 5 business days, and often earlier. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer, or have just found out they have cancer recurrence, qualify for this priority access. Our surgeons will make themselves available to see you right away, even for a second opinion. We want to help you start your treatment as soon as possible.

If you have been diagnosed with a cancer of the digestive system, don’t wait.
Call the Digestive Health Institute at (813) 615-7440.

Learn more about our Surgical Cancer Care program.

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