Got GERD?

The Hunt Doctors break down Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease

One of the adventures and complications of traveling to all ends of the earth in pursuit of big game is exposing our digestive tracks to a multitude of different types of foods. With this exposure, travel and novelty comes an increased incidence of GERD. We docs love our acronyms so here goes: Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.



Some of the dishes that have been prepared for us include raw seal fat in the far north to the heavily spiced delicacies in Central America to heavens knows what in the African bush. Most of us have experienced reflux to a variety of degrees even within our normal dietary habits at home. Some of us have the occasional mild case while other have it frequently and severe in nature. The overall perception from our patients is that it's just a nuisance with no particularly harsh potential consequences to it. It's really not just a disease exaggerated by drug companies to push their new pills and potions. Sure, it can be very simple and merely a brief inconvenience, but the reality is that uncontrolled reflux can set you up for some potentially very bad outcomes.


Let's understand what reflux is to begin with. After ingesting a meal, the food in your stomach is exposed to strong acid. This is vigorously mixed even as you add to the load by your next swallow. There's a one-way valve made up of muscle called a sphincter, which controls the flow of food and allows passage into the stomach. Now this sphincter isn't exactly the strongest muscle in your body. The esophageal sphincter can open up in a functional way; say if you eat spoiled food resulting in emesis (a nice way to say vomit). GERD occurs when food, which is actively being digested, is regurgitated back up into the esophagus because the esophageal sphincter is weak (incompetent).


The next thing to understand is that the cellular lining of the stomach is made to be able to handle the severe acidity but the esophagus is definitely not. This explains the burning feeling experienced with reflux. Besides the obvious discomfort and pain (which sometimes is mistaken for a heart attack) there are more serious problems with GERD. The two most serious things we all need to be aware of are that constant exposure of the lining in the esophagus to acid literally burns it. This chemical burning causes a change or transition of the lining from one type of cell to another in order to protect it more effectively. Unfortunately, that new cell type, known as Barrett's esophagus is very prone to degenerating/predisposing you to esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is a killer.

The changing of the lining also brings with it a scarring type phenomenon. This scarring of a soft tubular organ causes stiffening and a restriction of the size of the tube. The result can be quite severe. Food starts to get stuck on the way down. This relatively frequent adverse effect ends up requiring dilatation. The dilation treatment is kind of medieval. A large caliber, long, flexible solid rubber hose that is passed down your throat into your stomach, which stretches the esophagus outwards again so, you can swallow normally again. Again, unfortunately once this process starts, you usually must be redilated every so often. There are many other problems associated with reflux that can mimic other disease processes and if they go unrecognized, one can endure a host of tests before the real culprit is found.


Prevention of reflux actually isn't all that hard without medication. First and foremost, weight loss and exercise greatly reduces the incidence as does a reduction in spicy, acidic or heavily caffeinated foods or drinks. Also, having more frequent but smaller volume meals also will have a big impact. Some of these steps actually reduce the incidence of reflux by increasing the tone of the esophageal sphincter thus stopping your stomach contents from going the wrong direction. If you delay lying down for a couple of hours after meals you recruit gravity to your health team as well.

Treatment with over the counter and prescription medication is readily available as we all are very aware. The ads are unrelenting since this is a huge problem here in the U.S. Now realize before we go on any further that the following treatments are solely aimed at decreasing your acid load by either neutralizing the acid, decreasing its production or stopping its production all together.

You still reflux but since the acid isn't present, there isn't any burning but the sphincter still isn't working correctly. Tums and similar products simply neutralize the acid and are very quick acting but offer short lasting results. Pepcid, Zantac and Tagamet are popular over the counter and prescription medications that belong to a group known as H2 blockers. They decrease the production of acid in the stomach and typically last around 12 hours. Prilosec, Nexium, Aciphex, Prevacid and Protonix are another group of meds available over the counter and via prescription that are known as PPIs. They block most of one's ability to produce acid and last in general around 24 hours and typically are more expensive.

Beyond the scope of this article is the fact that there are some medications that actually do increase the muscular tone of the esophageal sphincter thus stopping the reflux itself. There are also surgical procedures whose aim is to make it almost impossible for you to reflux but these are specialized scenarios.

Pure and simple if you have reflux frequent enough that you are seeking medication as relief, try the above preventive measures. If these do not effectively resolve your problem, then try the over the counter medications as suggested. Your physician is your health care partner, we strongly urge a consultation. There may be a more serious underlying problem so please take this "heartburn" issue seriously!

We hope this has taken some of the unknown out of this disease process and informed you of the treatments available as well as the potential consequences of GERD.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Hogs

Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Walleye

How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper - April 02, 2015

We all have our "swear by" bait for catfish. For me, it is chicken liver, live shad or my...

Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

See More Stories

More Walleye

Conservation & Politics

Michigan: Dozens of Walleye Confiscated After Anonymous Tip

G&F Staff

When asked how many walleye they had in the vehicle, the driver said, "Too many.”

Walleye

Go Mobile to Catch More Ice Walleyes

Joel Nelson - January 18, 2019

The ability and willingness to go mobile when ice-fishing for walleyes can determine whether...

Walleye

Gear 2018: Great New Walleye Rods and Reels

Dan Johnson - July 02, 2018

 Game & Fish Editors look at new walleye rods and reels for 2018. Is it...

See More Walleye

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×