Heartburn got its name because the discomfort that you feel occurs where your stomach meets your esophagus, which is in the general area of your heart. In reality, your heart isn’t even remotely involved.
What is involved is the upper portion of your digestive tract. And if your heartburn occurs more than once in a while — say, more than twice a week — you may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This digestive disorder allows the acidic contents of your stomach to flow back up to your esophagus, which causes pain and a fair amount of damage.
Dr. Nirav Naik at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California, helps area patients understand their reflux condition and select the best treatment, which may include heartburn surgery. One of the most important distinctions Dr. Naik emphasizes is that there’s a difference between treating your acid reflux symptoms and treating the cause of the problem.
The prevailing myth about GERD is that it means you have too much acid in your stomach or that you produce an excess of acid. The truth is, acid reflux occurs because the acid won’t stay where it belongs — in your stomach.
The most common culprit in GERD is a hiatal hernia. This is a condition in which a part of your stomach tissue bulges through your diaphragm and affects its ability to keep acid in its place. The causes of a hiatal hernia aren’t fully understood, but they’re often attributed to injury, birth defects, obesity, smoking, and weak supporting muscles.
Another potential cause of acid reflux is a problem with the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus. If that ring-shaped muscle fails to tighten or stays open all the time, stomach acid is free to flow upward and cause damage, including ulcers, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, and even cancer.
For mild and occasional heartburn, we can help you manage your symptoms with medication. From over-the-counter calcium supplements to prescription medications, you can reduce the frequency and severity of your heartburn episodes, but these are only intended for short-term use. They do not cure the problem.
If you’ve been on medication for years, you may have sustained damage to your esophagus. In the case of Barrett’s esophagus, the damage changes your esophageal tissues and may result in the growth of cancerous cells. This is why Dr. Naik recommends a different treatment approach to acid reflux in these cases.
The best way to treat your chronic heartburn or GERD is to go straight to the source. If you have a hiatal hernia, Dr. Naik can surgically repair it and close the opening to prevent recurrence.
He’s also experienced in the LINX® procedure. This technological advancement replaces a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter with a magnetic device.
Unlike older procedures that attempted to solve the problem by wrapping a portion of the upper stomach around itself to create a makeshift sphincter, LINX is a flexible and functional solution that allows normal bodily functions like belching and vomiting while preventing bloating.
Dr. Naik can help you find a permanent solution to your heartburn. To find out what’s causing yours and which treatment is best for you, call us today to schedule an appointment.