Who ever said “better out than in” clearly wasn’t talking about the contents of your stomach. The belching, the regurgitation. These are some of the symptoms of a stomach that just won’t sit. The culprit? Acid reflux.
You know that feeling when you throw up a little bit after a meal, and it leaves a foul taste in your mouth? That’s acid reflux. And the ongoing hiccups, and burping? Acid reflux. Stomach acid would do well do stay in the stomach. But in some of us, that just doesn’t happen.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid escapes the stomach through the lower esophageal sphincter and enters the esophagus. This can cause a burning sensation in the chest, called heartburn, and the symptoms described above.
While it’s common to experience sporadic acid reflux symptoms, some are more prone to acid reflux than others. If it happens at least twice a week, you might have acid reflux disease. Risk factors include:
- eating large meals
- snacking before bed time
- lying down after a meal
- spicy, fatty and citrus foods
- alcohol, sodas, coffee and tea
Fortunately, you can stop acid reflux with a variety of solutions. While dietary modifications and lifestyle changes can drastically reduce acid reflux, this article outlines how to stop acid reflux with surgery and medication, and which option might be more effective.
In an effort to gauge the effectiveness of medication and surgery to treat acid reflux, researchers at Nantes University in France split a group of 500 patients with moderate to severe symptoms of acid reflux in two. The first group took 20 milligrams of Nexium each day, and the second underwent lapraroscopic surgery to tighten the stomach around the esophagus.
At the end of the five year study, both treatments proved effective. But the group taking Nexium, a proton pump inhibitor and common medication for sufferers of acid reflux, had more patients with reduced symptoms, with 92% of participants reporting either a severe reduction in symptoms, or no symptoms at all.
The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, also suggests that medications to treat acid reflux are a more cost-effective treatment than surgery, even after factoring in doctor visits and prescription costs.
Proton pump inhibitors are the most common and, as the study suggests, among the most effective medications to treat acid reflux. The study notes, however, that the remaining symptoms, though mild, included regurgitation, heartburn and abdominal pain.
While the group taking medication experienced a dramatic reduction in symptoms, the group that underwent surgery to stop acid reflux showed comparable results, with 85% of participants with very mild symptoms, or symptom-free.
In the procedure, a medical team tightened the stomach around the esophagus, to act as a valve. All procedures were done by experienced surgeons. While the medication group had slightly more patients with reduced symptoms, the surgery showed better resolution of remaining symptoms, with mild swallowing and belching problems lingering at best.
The study notes that the success rate of surgery to treat acid reflux would hinge on an experienced team to perform the procedure. Not all patients would benefit from the surgery. And the procedure isn’t a permanent solution, and often requires a successive procedure after five to ten years should symptoms return.
The study results are encouraging for those with moderate to severe acid reflux. As to which treatment is better, medication or surgery, the answer would depend on a variety of factors, including health, lifestyle, budget and physiology. Medications cost less, but are (slightly) less effective than surgery, which can require follow-up treatment, but appears to have fewer remaining symptoms.
Remember also that acid reflux, troublesome as it is, can often be reduced, even prevented, with dietary changes, cessation of smoking and healthy weight management. These might be less obvious solutions to those looking for an easy fix to acid reflux, but they’re often more effective, and stop acid reflux at the source.