Heartburn may be symptom of bigger problem

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The smell of a holiday dinner can set your mouth watering and the acid in your stomach bubbling.  Some of the Louisiana staples, like lots of spices and rich flavors, are also some of the biggest triggers for heartburn.   Other triggers include obesity and stress.

"Louisiana is always in the top five among obesity rates in the country from a state standpoint, and then our diet is very high in foods that tend to precipitate reflux," said gastroenterologist Dr. Greg Gaspard:

Doctors say reflux of liquid or air from the stomach into the esophagus is normal for everyone, as is mild heartburn.  However, when that heartburn is persistent and typical treatments like antacids do not help, it may be time to take a closer look.

"Warning symptoms like food getting stuck when you swallow. Weight loss, any kind of vomiting especially with blood involved, those are real risk factors and signs that are involved," said Gaspard.

One way of checking out the esophagus is using a PH-impedance probe.

The probe is a small catheter inserted through the nose, down the throat and into the esophagus.  For 24 hours, six sensors measure reflux, acid, and even muscle contractions.

"It also allows the patient, through a small monitor, to know when they're laying down, when they're not;  when they're eating, when they've stopped eating; when they're taking medication and more importantly when they're having symptoms," said Gaspard.

The information from the probe can help doctors determine if there is a bigger problem, like inflammation, Barrett's Esophagus or a narrowing of the esophagus, and how to treat it.

"All of these symptoms are managed in very different ways so it's important to know what  we're dealing with," said Gaspard.

Of course, if you have any concerns you should always contact your doctor or medical provider.  

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