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Constant Reflux, Constant Damage

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM) -- If stomach acid flows up into the esophagus, it can create all kinds of tissue damage.

About 60 percent of Americans experience these reflux issues once in a while.

But over time, 20 percent will end up experiencing it on a weekly basis.

This is known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, and if left untreated, can possibly lead to a fast-growing esophageal cancer.

We have some ways on how to prevent reflux from the start.

What goes up, must come down, but what goes down, shouldn’t always come back up, especially acid in the esophagus!

If you’re experiencing acid reflux more than twice a week, you may have GERD.

“It's not that your stomach is making any more acid, it's because no matter what, constant reflux causes constant damage to that sphincter and that sphincter's ability to do its job deteriorates over time,” explained Tripp Buckley, MD, Surgical Director of Digestive Health at UT Health Austin.

If you’re experiencing acidic taste in mouth, bad breath, heartburn, coughing, swallowing pain, chest pain or disrupted sleep, you may want to see a doctor.

But with some simple lifestyle changes, you can at least reduce the frequency.

“We know that alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, peppermint, really all the mints, can actually relax that sphincter,” shared Dr. Buckley.

Even more surprising … tomato sauce, citrus juices, garlic, onions, and other spicy foods.

Eat a moderate amount and avoid lying down or going to sleep for at least three hours.

Avoid tight clothing around the abdomen, as it can put pressure on the sphincter, and when going to bed, elevate your body from the waist up.

While antacids like Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums may temporarily relieve the heartburn, they won’t do anything to fix or tighten the sphincter.

Doctors warn the overuse of antacids can lead to diarrhea or kidney problems.

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Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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