Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Brrap--skinny on heartburn

…Everybody thinks they have GERD these days. Writing in the NYT on Nov 8, 2007, Peter Jaret talks about the huge wave of gastroesophageal reflux disease people are being talked into.

…Millions of people now think they have an incurable disease that leads to even more…stern voice on TV commercial…”serious conditions” like cancer.

…Hold up a minute.

…Heartburn occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach relaxes without your permission and acid spills upward. Almost everyone experiences it sometimes.

…Over the years, doctors thought, the acid would erode the lining of the esophagus, leading to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

…Of course, the truth was slipperier. Some people with horrible heartburn have no damage. Some people with damage have no heartburn.

…Only 10 to 15% of heartburn cases have GERD with signs of damage. Even when there is damage, it usually doesn’t get worse and worse.

…For occasional heartburn, antacids like Tums and Maalox are fine. Drugs called H2 blockers are prescribed for mild, recurring episodes. For more severe cases, proton pump inhibitors may be suggested.

…People with documented damage (tube down the throat to assess) may need daily meds. Other stay on meds because the TV ads scare them.

…Proton pump inhbitors have been linked to increased chance of hip fractures.

…It isn’t prudent to take stuff you don’t need. Auntie HA said so.

…Incidentally, giving up certain foods like coffee, chocolate and spices has not been shown to help much. Raising the head of the bed can help a little.

…Of course, the doctor will also say to lose weight. When don’t they say that?

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