January 25, 2015
For many people, Super Bowl Sunday can be as much about socializing and overindulging in food and alcohol as it is about the game itself. That’s natural. Super Bowl parties overflow with delicious options — buffalo wings, pizza, chips, salsa, soda, beer and more.
For years, reports have pegged the Super Bowl as the second largest food day in America, behind only Thanksgiving. Food associations report that Americans will double their daily caloric consumption on Super Bowl Sunday.
If you need an excuse to break your diet, the Super Bowl is it. However, for tens of millions of Americans who suffer from acid reflux, navigating the buffet table can be a risky endeavor. Dr. Shawn Tsuda M.D., F.A.C.S. of Sunrise Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine breaks down the ABCs of acid reflux, describes a new treatment option for chronic suffers and offers healthy eating tips for Super Bowl Sunday.
“The medical term for acid reflux is GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease. It is used synonymously with heartburn, but heartburn is just one of the symptoms that can result from acid reflux,” Tsuda said. Acid reflux occurs when an abnormal reflux of stomach contents — acid — goes up into the esophagus from the stomach. “Normally, the acid in your stomach stays there through something called the lower esophageal sphincter. In some people, that sphincter is incompetent, allowing acid to enter the esophagus and cause damage,” Tsuda said.
The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Even though billions of dollars are spent on acid reflux treatments annually, the seriousness of acid reflux remains underappreciated, Tsuda said. Many people experience occasional heartburn, which can be remedied with minor lifestyle changes, such avoiding foods that induce acid reflux, not eating too close to bedtime and not overeating. But there’s a class of people for whom acid reflux affects their daily lives, “to the point that they really need medication, every once in a while, possibly daily, to control their symptoms,” Tsuda said. The primary types of medications are called proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium, Protonix or Dexilant.
Proton pump inhibitors quell symptoms for many people, but for some with severe acid reflux, medication, or even multiple medications, cannot alleviate symptoms. “Severe sufferers may start having complications with acid reflux, which can mean damage to the esophagus that leads to irritation, bleeding or even cancer,” Tsuda said. “This type of patient is a possible candidate for surgical procedures to fix the lower esophageal sphincter.”
Fixing the esophageal sphincter
To the relief of chronic sufferers, Sunrise Hospital recently introduced a new procedure that is yielding very promising results. “The traditional operation is called Nissen fundoplication, and while it’s a good operation, it is a fairly disruptive procedure,” Dr. Shawn Tsuda said. “It involves using your own stomach to wrap around the esophagus and create a new sphincter.” The new procedure is minimally invasive and doesn’t disrupt the patient’s native anatomy. It employs a device called the Linx Reflux Management System, which is a bracelet of magnetic beads placed around the esophagus to re-create the sphincter. “This keeps the acid in the stomach and away from the esophagus,” Tsuda said. “It has been on the market for about a year and a half, and was studied by the FDA for seven years prior to launch. It has a very good safety profile and an efficacy that, in some cases, exceeds the traditional operation.” Though the surgery won’t grant Super Bowl Sunday revelers a free pass for all-you-can-eat hot wings, it is meant to be a permanent solution. “Current studies are showing a 90 percent efficacy rate for getting patients off medication completely, and the few who still need to take medication can usually reduce the amount that they take,” Tsuda said.
Healthy habits on big game day
Drink lots of water; eat slowly; use small plates to encourage smaller servings; choose baked foods over fried foods; eat vegetables with non-acidic dips, such as hummus; and pack your plate with fruit. If you are going to risk buffalo wings, be sure to balance them with an equal amount of vegetables and a glass of water between servings.
Foods that can cause irritation
Caffeine, spicy food, fried food, and alcohol often contribute to acid reflux, but Tsuda explains, “it’s different for everyone, and most people will be able to, through their own eating and drinking history, know what incites acid reflux in themselves.”