Heartburn, or gastrointestinal reflux, is a medical condition where stomach contents move back up through the Lower Esophageal Sphincter into the esophagus. The acids from the stomach coming in contact with the lining of the esophagus can cause a burning feeling, taste changes, coughing, and a hoarseness of the voice. The discomfort can last several hours, and repeated heartburn can lead to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), which can lead to damage to the esophagus, blood loss, difficulty eating, and loss of weight.
Heartburn can be made worse or can be initiated by bariatric surgery. Gastric sleeve surgery, or sleeve gastrectomy, can lead to more frequent heartburn, possibly due to changes to the esophageal length or changes in the shape of the stomach. A smaller stomach pouch may also put additional pressure on the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, which allows the stomach acids to pass through into the lower esophagus.
If you experience repeated heartburn after gastric sleeve, gastric bypass or lap band surgery, discuss it with your doctor. There are several ways to prevent and treat heartburn, but not all methods work for everyone, and your doctor can recommend the best course of treatment for you based on your medical history.
But, for an occasional bout of heartburn, you can try these simple ways to alleviate the symptoms:
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
- Remove belts or wear loose fitting clothing to lessen the pressure on the stomach
- Try over the counter medicines
- Try herbal remedies (ginger or chamomile may help)
- Try to reduce your stress and tension
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed
- Sit upright after eating
- Eat smaller meals
- Lose weight
- Try making some changes to your diet: avoid spicy foods and greasy foods, chocolate, caffeine, tomato products, garlic, alcohol, and carbonated beverages
Occasional heartburn may not be a serious problem, but if you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
- Forceful vomiting
- Vomit that is green, yellow, blood tinged, or looks like coffee grounds
- Difficulty breathing after vomiting
- Mouth or throat pain while eating
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
The above is offered by Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A. a board certified surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic and obesity surgery. His gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band patients come from all over South Florida, including Delray Beach, Wellington, West Palm Beach, Parkland, Miami, and the Fort Lauderdale area, and as far away as Orlando, Jacksonville, and New York. Weight loss may help relieve heartburn, so for some, bariatric surgery can reduce the incidence of heartburn. But for others, bariatric surgery may worsen heartburn. Do not hesitate to inform Dr. Shillingford of your symptoms, especially if you experience any of the symptoms above.