Heartburn or GERD? Dr. Keary O’Connor on WVUE FOX 8 News

Anchor: And welcome back. More than 60 million Americans experience
heartburn monthly and some studies suggest more than 15 million have heartburn symptoms
actually every day. Our lifestyles and diets could be the trigger. Welcome Keary O’Connor. She’s a doctor to talk about prevention and
treatment when a trip to the doctor’s in order. First of all let’s talk about what really
is heartburn and what causes that. Doctor: So heartburn is just reflux of acid,
stomach acid up to the esophagus, and the esophagus is a hollow, muscular tube that
connects the back of the throat to the stomach, and there’s a sphincter, your lower esophageal
sphincter that controls the flow of acid in or out of the stomach. Anchor: So we were talking before we went
on the air, there have been times rarely that you get maybe a little belch and you get that
little acidic feel, if it happens a couple of times a year, is that something to worry
about? Doctor: No it actually that’s a normal physiological
process for that sphincter to open and a little bit of acid to reflux up into the esophagus. However, where it becomes problematic is if
you’re having it on a recurring basis. Anchor: Ok so let’s talk about that. If you have it say a few times a month, when
do you get to the point where you say, “I really need to get this checked.” Doctor: So if you’ve been treating it at home
for more than 14 days and you’ve not had relief, a good time to see your doctor. If you’re having symptoms 2 or more times
a week, a good time to see your doctor. Anchor: So with this, I’ve seen a lot of people
pop Tums, they take Alka Seltzer, they take all these different things, are they masking
the situation or making it worse by doing that? Doctor: Well they can. Alka Seltzer contains aspirin, so that can
actually irritate the stomach and again if you’re taking supplements over the counter
whether it’s Tums or a histamine blocker, or even one of the over the counter proton
pump inhibitors, and you’ve not had relief for your symptoms, definitely a good idea
to see your physician to make sure something more serious is not going on. Anchor: Ok so, you go to your doctor, they
find somethings wrong. Alright, lifestyle change. What do you have to do to get rid of this
because it’s really uncomfortable for people. Doctor: So for the majority of Americans,
lifestyle change really is the best way so it’s losing weight, it’s eating a high-fiber
diet, low fat diet, avoiding things that are triggers like caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods,
peppermint, spearmint, things of that nature. You also want to make sure that after you’ve
eaten, you don’t lie down, sit down in a recliner for about 45 minutes to an hour. Anchor: So when you talk about GERD, GERD
is pretty serious? Doctor: GERD is. GERD is a little bit more erosive. It can actually lead to something called Barrett’s
Esophagus, where the actual lining of the esophagus changes from its normal physiology. So you want to make sure that you don’t have
that and again if you’re having repeated symptoms and GERD is typically defined as two or more
times a week, then you’ll want to see your physician again as well. Anchor: So is that something that if you get
the damage, can it be repaired? Doctor: Yes Anchor: Or is it constant? Doctor: Some damage can be repaired, yes. And your doctor will do what’s called an EGD,
where they’ll take a scope and they can look down your throat or they’ll send you to a
gastroenterologist and then they can determine exactly the type of damage and what needs
to be done to repair that. Anchor: Alright so, you’re the doctor. What would you tell people all in all if they’re
getting this and they get that uncomfortable feeling, what do they really need to do? We talked about it, but just in a nutshell,
what would you tell a patient to do? Doctor: So you can sleep with your head on
the bed at 30 to 45 degrees, that can help. Wear loose fitting clothing. Don’t go to bed at night within three hours
after eating, you want two to three hours after a meal before you go to bed at night. Get up and walk after you’ve had a meal. 45 minutes to an hour that can help. Avoid high-fat foods because that can relax
the sphincter and cause more reflux up in the esophagus. You want to lose weight, stop smoking, don’t
drink alcohol, things of that nature. Anchor: Alright, lifestyle changes and you
actually feel a lot better. Alright, thanks doctor we appreciate it.

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