Acid reflux is not uncommon among the general population, but it’s a lot more common among two particular groups: those who are morbidly obese, and those who have undergone sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve) or other bariatric surgeries.
If you’re considering getting the gastric sleeve procedure, we recommend that you learn as much as possible about it and its side effects. In this article, we’re going to be discussing acid reflux symptoms and how to fix them if you had gastric sleeve surgery.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is more properly known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD is experienced by up to 50% of morbidly obese people, regardless of whether or not they’ve had bariatric surgery.
GERD is caused by stomach acid coming up into the esophagus. The lower abdominal sphincter opens and closes on its own during eating and digestion. When it is relaxed, stomach acid may reflux back up. This acid is highly corrosive and it can wear down the esophageal lining.
The most common symptom of GERD is persistent heartburn, which is also the most telling. Heartburn can happen after eating a particularly large, fatty, or spicy meal; but for GERD patients, it rarely goes away.
Why Do Some Get Acid Reflux After Gastric Sleeve?
The reason, in a nutshell, is because of how the procedure affects intra-abdominal pressure. The stomach is cut down to a fraction of its normal size, causing pressure within the stomach itself to increase. This could weaken the lower esophageal sphincter.
Interestingly enough, many patients find that their GERD symptoms lessen or go away completely following the gastric sleeve procedure. This is likely due to the effect of weight loss on intra-abdominal pressure. When you lose weight, abdominal pressure goes down due to the fact that there’s a lot less fat pushing on your organs.
There’s a lot more to post-op life; check out our article on life after gastric sleeve surgery!
How Can I Fix My Acid Reflux After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
Acid reflux disease has no cure, and there are currently no surgical options available for the treatment of GERD.
GERD symptoms should subside over time as weight loss persists. If you have already lost most of your post-op weight and are still experiencing symptoms of acid reflux disease, here are some recommendations.
Reduce as many risk factors as possible. Common risk factors for GERD symptoms include:
- Eating late into the night
- Consumption of fatty or fried foods
- Regular consumption of alcohol or large amounts of coffee
Continue with a healthy diet and exercise program to maintain weight loss. GERD is much less likely to persist in those who are in a normal BMI range (20-25).
Get a prescription for GERD medication. GERD can become a chronic problem, leading to increased risk for problems such as esophageal cancer. It’s important that your esophageal lining is protected as best as possible.