When To See A Gastroenterologist
Sometimes its difficult to know when your symptoms are severe enough that you need to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, and we understand that. Here are some indications that its time to call a gastroenterologist:
- Symptoms that continue for more than two weeks
- Heartburn that persists after taking over-the-counter medications
- Heartburn episodes that change in frequency or intensity
- Nighttime symptoms that affect your sleep quality
- Acid reflux that interferes with your daily activities or affects your quality of life
- Unexplained weight loss or decreased appetite
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Heartburn accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic hoarseness or wheezing
If you experience any of the symptoms above, its time to see one of our gastroenterologists. After performing a complete medical exam, your gastroenterologist may recommend that you undergo an upper endoscopy to evaluate your symptoms and see if you have suffered any damage to your esophagus, or provide you with the peace of mind that everything is all right. During your visit, the doctor will examine the lining of your esophagus, stomach and duodenum to determine the cause of your digestive symptoms and the appropriate treatment.
How Is Dyspepsia Treated
If you have a stomach ulcer, it can be cured. You may need to take an acid-blocking medicine. If you have an infection in your stomach, you may also need to take an antibiotic.
If your doctor thinks that a medicine you’re taking causes your dyspepsia, you might take another medicine.
A medicine that cuts down on the amount of acid in your stomach might help your pain. This medicine can also help if you have acid reflux disease.
Your doctor might want you to have an endoscopy exam if:
You still have stomach pain after you take a dyspepsia medicine for 8 week.
The pain goes away for a while but comes back again.
In an endoscopy exam, a small tube with a camera inside it is put into your mouth and down into your stomach. Then your doctor can look inside your stomach to try to find a cause for your pain.
Six Signs Your Heartburn Could Be Something More Serious
That burning, uncomfortable sensation in your chest? Itâs probably heartburn. Heartburn is a very common ailment that affects many people for many reasons. It occurs when digestive acid escapes the stomach and irritates the delicate lining of the esophagus.
Usually, itâs the result of eating certain foods, or simply overeating, and can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. But sometimes, heartburn is a symptom of bigger problems, that require other solutions. Hereâs when to call a doctor:
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Flabby Stomach
What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is when someone has reflux more than twice a week. It’s a more serious condition than GER. Doctors usually treat it with medicine.
GERD can be a problem if it’s not treated because, over time, the reflux of stomach acid damages the tissue lining the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. In adults, long-lasting, untreated GERD can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus.
Can Acid Reflux Cause Chest Pain
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux. Chest pain related to reflux is also called noncardiac chest pain . Chest pain occurs during reflux episodes because the heart and the esophagus share a nerve network. Acid reflux, specifically GERD, causes up to 66% of reported NCCPs.
Evaluating Your Chest Pain
Since chest pain from acid reflux and more serious conditions such as heart attack are hard to distinguish, its important to know how to evaluate your chest pain. Chest pain from acid reflux often affects the sternum or the area below it called the epigastrium. Pain from acid reflux is often characterized as a sharp pain, which gets worse with coughing.
Meanwhile, chest pain from non-acid reflux sources could be described as a deep, searing pain. Heart-related chest pain often radiates to other parts of the body including the back, neck, shoulders, and arms.
The symptoms that accompany chest pain are also key in evaluating the nature of the pain. Gastro-related chest pain is often accompanied by burping or flatulence, trouble swallowing, bile regurgitation, and a burning sensation in the throat or stomach.
Cardiac-related chest pain is often accompanied by numbness in the left arm or shoulder, shortness of breath, dizziness, and high body temperatures.
Don’t Miss: What Exercise Burns The Most Stomach Fat
Reducing The Causes Of Low Stomach Acid And Bacterial Overgrowth
H.pylori. is a common bacterial overgrowth that can suppress the production of stomach acid. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious were both low stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth exacerbating each other into a downward spiral of digestive dysfunction.
Although more testing needs to be done a low-carb diet has in two studies proved very effective at not only reducing the symptoms of GERD but in some cases eliminated them completely.
It isn’t necessary to stay on a low-carb diet permanently. As soon as the symptoms disappear and normal digestive function returns a low to medium low-carb diet should be enough to prevent the symptoms coming back.
How Is Gerd Treated
Treatment for GERD depends on how severe symptoms are. For some people, treatment may just include lifestyle changes, such as changing what they eat or drink. Others will need to take medicines. In very rare cases, when GERD is particularly severe, a doctor will recommend surgery.
These lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of GERD or even prevent the condition:
- quitting smoking
- losing weight if you are overweight
- eating small meals
- avoiding carbonated beverages
- avoiding foods that trigger reflux
It also can help to not lie down for 3 hours after a meal and to not eat 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Doctors sometimes also recommend raising the head of the bed about 6 to 8 inches. Before you start a major bedroom makeover, though, talk to your doctor and your parents about the best sleeping position for you.
If symptoms continue, doctors might prescribe medicine, such as:
- H2 blockers, which can help block the production of stomach acid
- proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
- prokinetics, which help the esophageal sphincter work better and the stomach empty faster. This can prevent reflux episodes.
You May Like: What Can Cause Stomach And Back Pain
Are There Risk Factors
Some of the potential risk factors for developing high levels of stomach acid include:
- Medications: If you take medication to lower stomach acid production and then come off of treatment, you may develop rebound high stomach acid. However, this typically resolves on its own over time.
- H. pylori infection: Having an active H. pylori bacterial infection in your stomach may lead to an increase in stomach acid.
- Genetics: About 25 to 30 percent of people with gastrinomas tumors that form in the pancreas or duodenum have an inherited genetic condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 .
High stomach acid is often treated with protein pump inhibitors . These medications work to lower stomach acid production.
PPIs have a higher efficacy than H2 blockers. Theyre often given orally, but can be given by IV in more severe cases.
If your high stomach acid is caused by an H. pylori infection, youll be prescribed antibiotics along with a PPI. The antibiotics work to kill the bacteria while the PPI will help lower stomach acid production.
Sometimes surgery may be recommended, such as removal of gastrinomas in people with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Additionally, people who have severe ulcers may need to have surgery to remove part of the stomach or vagus nerve .
If heartburn is one of your symptoms, you can make dietary changes to help reduce your symptoms:
- eating smaller and more frequent meals
Complications Of Gerd And Acid Reflux
Ulcers Stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers. These ulcers have the potential to bleed. To check for bleeding ulcers, your doctor may recommend a stool sample test called hemocult.
Stricture Damage caused by acid reflux can cause the esophagus to scar and narrow. This is called stricture. Over time, stricture could cause a blockage of food and require treatment. The scar tissue is a result of ulcers that occur and heal over time.
Lung and throat problems Acid reflux in the throat could lead to irritation or inflammation of the vocal cords or a sore throat. If the acid is inhaled into the lungs, it could cause aspiration pneumonia or symptoms of asthma. If the acid reflux is chronic, it could eventually cause permanent lung damage including pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.
Barrettâs esophagus Barrettâs esophagus occurs when the cells in the lower esophagus transform. The transformation is usually caused by damage to the esophageal lining, most often from chronic acid reflux or GERD. There is a small chance these cells may develop into cancer. Patients with Barretts esophagus should have an upper endoscopy done periodically to look for early signs of cancer.
Esophageal cancer Barrettâs esophagus is a major risk factor for developing esophageal cancer. The rate of esophageal cancer is on the rise, but relatively few people with GERD develop Barrettâs esophagus and even fewer people with Barrettâs esophagus develop esophageal cancer.
Also Check: How Much Does Coolsculpting Cost For Stomach
Sore Throat Or Hoarseness
A sore throat that doesnt go away and isnt accompanied by typical cold symptoms may be caused by acid reflux. Your throat feels sore because a little bit of acid is coming up from the esophagus and irritating the throat, says Dr. Sam. Unexplained hoarseness may be caused by stomach acid moving up to your larynx, or voice box, and, according to EverydayHealth.com, tends to be more noticeable in the mornings when it had all night to travel while you were lying down.
Learn how to spot the telltale signs of strep throat.
Acid Reflux Bad Breath
GERD bad breath is an unpleasant manifestation of chronic heartburn. When stomach acid ends up in the mouth cavity, it can erode hard tissues and tooth enamel. This creates cavities that trap food where bacteria can feed and multiply.
Often, your dentist can tell whether bad breath is caused by acid reflux or because of poor dental hygiene and smoking that also cause dysbiosis of the oral microbiome. GERD patients tend to have teeth erosion, redness around the tonsils, tongue and gum irritation, and sour breath.
TIPProper dental hygiene and over-the-counter medications can usually alleviate bad breath in a week or so.
Are There Rare Acid Reflux Symptoms
Although a common gastrointestinal condition, not all acid reflux symptoms are shared by patients. Some only experience heartburn and regurgitation, which are two distinct signs of acid reflux. Others may exhibit symptoms that stray from the usual list.
Listed below are some of the usual concerns on uncommon acid reflux symptoms. Keep in mind that the majority of these are caused by chronic acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease and may not be relevant to patients with temporary acid reflux.
If so, a separate issue not related to acid reflux may be the cause of the following symptoms:
When To See The Doctor About Acid Reflux
You should see a doctor about your acid reflux if it gets to a point where its causing persistent discomfort in your daily life. The condition is not life-threatening, but you can end up with some serious complications.
GERD can lead to chronic inflammation in your esophagus. You could end up with the following conditions if you dont receive proper and timely treatment:
- Esophageal stricture An esophageal stricture forms when your lower esophagus ends up with damage from stomach acids, leading to scar tissue formation. The presence of that scar tissue causes your food pathway to narrow, which causes you to have trouble swallowing your food.
- Esophageal ulcer An esophageal ulcer is a sore that develops when your stomach acid wears away the issue of your esophagus. It can start bleeding, which can cause pain and leads to problems with swallowing.
- Barretts esophagus The damage caused in your lower esophagus tissue by stomach acid can induce changes that increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Don’t Miss: What Is Neuropathy Of The Stomach
How Do I Know Im Having Heartburn And Not A Heart Attack
Chest pain caused by heartburn may make you afraid youre having a heart attack. Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but since the discomfort is in your chest it may be hard to know the difference while its going on. But symptoms of a heart attack are different than heartburn.
Heartburn is that uncomfortable burning feeling or pain in your chest that can move up to your neck and throat. A heart attack can cause pain in the arms, neck and jaw, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms.
If your heartburn medication doesnt help and your chest pain is accompanied by these symptoms, call for medical attention right away.
Rare Symptoms Of Acid Reflux: When You Should Be Worried
Acid reflux may be a common gastrointestinal problem, but it turns out its symptoms are not always that common. From headaches to nerve pain, there are uncommon acid reflux symptoms that can cause alarm and panic to patients.
So, what are rare acid reflux symptoms? Headaches, dizziness, asthma symptoms, and nerve pain are among those considered to be uncommon but safe acid reflux symptoms. On the other hand, fever and intense pain accompanied by left arm pain are just two examples of potential medical emergencies for reflux patients.
Read on to learn more about the lesser known acid reflux symptoms, and whether or not they pose a health risk.
Don’t Miss: Why My Stomach Gets Big After I Eat
Sleep Disturbances Aggravate Both Acid Reflux And Depression
Sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in acid reflux symptoms. Schey et al. have observed that sleep deprivation increases sensitivity to acid reflux.
Sleep deprivation may lower our pain bearing threshold and increase pain sensitivity.
Reduced pain sensitivity or disturbance in pain processing pathways can cause increased severity of acid reflux symptoms.
Sleep disturbances are a common complaint in patients with anxiety and depression. Also GERD patients experience sleep issues due to bloating or night time reflux.
Quick Gist: Sleep disturbances are a common factor in the pathogenesis of both GERD and Major Depressive Disorder. Sleep disturbances worsen acid reflux symptoms and are also associated with an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms.
Donât Miss: How To Get Flat Stomach Naturally
Bloating And Acid Reflux
Because bloating leads to increased abdominal pressure, it can cause acid reflux as it pushes stomach contents back up into the esophagus. More frequent swallowing — to get rid of stomach contents that have entered the esophagus — could make you swallow more air and cause more bloating. When you feel bloated, you may even try to relieve some of that pressure by belching intentionally, which can also cause some reflux of the acidic stomach contents up into the esophagus. This may be more likely to occur if your bloating is due to consuming a large meal or is a result of delayed stomach emptying, which can be related to certain medications or conditions.
Also Check: What To Do If My Cat Has An Upset Stomach
Restore Friendly Bacteria And Protective Lining Of The Gut
As an overgrowth of bad bacteria plays a big factor in GERD and heartburn, restoring a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria is a key factor in its treatment.
Good and bad bacteria are constantly competing for resources, therefore its important that you have sufficient numbers of probiotics to stop and push back the growth of nasty pathogens.
And there are plenty of medical studies that reveal probiotics to be effective at reducing the spread of bad bacteria with conditions such as IBS.
In addition, probiotics can substantially increased the cure rate in people being treated with H.pylor. infections.
The best source of probiotics come from natural foods. Fermented foods have been eaten for their probiotic benefits for thousands of years. In fact, natural fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir contain more friendly bacteria than commercial yogurts and probiotic supplements.
Fermented dairy products may cause issues for those with severe bacterial overgrowth, however there are non-dairy alternatives such as fermented cabbage and kombucha that are easy to make at home.Even so, probiotic supplements are an effective and convenient way to boost your digestive health.
3 surprising risks of poor posture – Harvard Medical School Publishing.
Use of a positional therapy device significantly improves nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux symptoms – Department of Gastroenterology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Causes And Risk Factors
The food pipe becomes narrower just before it reaches the stomach. This narrow part is normally kept shut by the muscles in the food pipe and diaphragm. But this doesn’t work properly in GERD. It is often not clear why.
In some people it is caused by a hiatal hernia . The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities from each other. The food pipe passes through a small hole in the diaphragm and enters the stomach just below it. In people who have a hiatal hernia, the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the hole in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. As a result, the diaphragm can no longer help to close the entrance to the stomach.
There is some debate about whether being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol can affect the sphincter or the risk of reflux and heartburn. Many of those affected say that their symptoms are triggered or made worse by stress or by certain foods or drinks. The symptoms may also get worse after physical activities or through certain positions, such as bending forward or lying down.
Sometimes reflux symptoms and heartburn are caused by a problem with the food pipe. For instance, the food pipe might not move rising stomach juices back down into the stomach fast enough, or it might react very sensitively. The symptoms can also be made worse by medications such as birth control pills and certain drugs against high blood pressure.
Also Check: How To Get Fat Removed From Stomach