Got Heartburn after Surgery? These Tips Can Help!

Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition where stomach acid refluxes or “backs up” into the esophagus. Most people feel an annoying burning sensation in the chest, just behind the breastbone. Heartburn and esophageal discomfort are symptoms of this condition. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) creates a tight closure at the base of the esophagus. This closure protects the esophagus from stomach acid. People with GERD have a weak LES. GERD can happen to anyone, but it is often worse when there is excess weight on the body. After bariatric surgery, most patients will experience relief from GERD due to less stomach acid and pressure. However, some research shows that the gastric sleeve may increase acid reflux.

The best treatment for GERD is proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs reduce the production of acid in the stomach. Examples usually end in “-prazole” such as omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), and esomeprazole (Nexium). Many patients will also seek out other heartburn remedies. Examples include ginger, alkaline water, and BariMelts Gastro Zen™, which promotes a calm, comfortable stomach. Many people enjoy mint to soothe an upset stomach, but research suggests that it can actually contribute to reflux by relaxing the LES.

Learn more about BariMelts Gastro Zen™ here:

There are many helpful lifestyle changes you can implement to relieve GERD symptoms:

  • Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. This will help reduce overeating, which puts pressure on the LES.
  • Eat in a calm, relaxed place to reduce mealtime stress. Stress worsens stomach acid.
  • Avoid fried or fatty foods. Because fat empties slowly from the stomach, it can leave you feeling super bloated.
  • Drink fluids between meals instead of with meals.
  • Wait 3 hours after eating before lying down.
  • Raise the head of your bed 6-9 inches or consider using a foam wedge pillow.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Do not smoke or use nicotine-containing products. Nicotine increases stomach acid and is extremely risky following bariatric surgery.

There are also many other stimulants that can cause increased acid production in the stomach. Avoid these substances to reduce esophageal irritation:

  • Tomato, tomato juice, and citrus
  • Coffee, including decaf
  • Tea
  • Cocoa (chocolate)
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonation
  • Alcohol
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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