Ask the Expert: When is your heartburn something more severe?

SSM Ask the Expert

ST. LOUIS – Thanksgiving is about a week away and everyone has their favorite part of the meal. From the stuffing to the potatoes and the pies, it is hard not to overdo it on the holiday.

It’s not uncommon for people to experience heartburn and acid reflux after eating a big meal but it may be a sign of a more serious problem like GERD.

Dr. Laura Grimmer is a general surgeon at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital joined us on Ask The Expert. She explains Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when the muscle at the top of your stomach is weak and allows acid to come up your esophagus.

Dr. Grimmer says if you are experiencing chronic heartburn for more than 5 years you should really consider seeing a doctor.

Alcohol, caffeine, and acidic foods can contribute to heartburn and acid reflux. Dr. Grimmer says heading into the holidays you can cut down on indigestion by:

  • eat smaller meals
  • slow down
  • sit down or stand for 30 minutes after a meal

She says in some cases people may have chest pains and come into the emergency room thinking they are having a heart attack. However, she says chest pains are often your body’s way of saying something is going on so it’s good to get it checked out.

There are surgical options for those suffering from GERD. One treatment is to wrap part of your stomach around the weak sphincter at the top of your stomach. The other is to use a device featuring magnetic balls that squeezes the sphincter, allowing less acid to leak out of the stomach.

Dr. Grimmer says the surgery is often reserved for patients who have tried everything else first. She says if there is a patient with a BMI of over 40 they usually suggest gastric bypass. She says this will help the patient lose weight which in turn helps with acid reflux.

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