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Letting GERD Go Untreated Increases Risk of Esophageal Cancer

Letting GERD go untreated can increase your risk of esophageal cancer in Dallas or Ft. WorthIt is hard to link the development of a particular type of cancer to an exact cause. There are certain conditions that appear to increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, but the exact level of risk is often a debated detail. The link between heartburn and esophageal cancer has been debated for years.

Those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD are undoubtedly at an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer thanks to the irritation of the esophageal lining from constant exposure to stomach acids. However, the actual likelihood of someone developing esophageal cancer as a result of GERD has always been looked at as small. A team of researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles found that risk of esophageal cancer becomes much larger when heartburn, acid reflux and GERD go untreated, making surgical interventions like Nissen fundoplication in Ft. Worth and Dallas of even more importance.

Researchers at UCLA found that rates of esophageal cancer were six times larger in 2001 than they were in 1975. They partially attributed this increase in the condition to the increase in the amount of heartburn and acid reflux people experience as a result of obesity and following a poor diet. While a lot of people are turning to a GERD surgeon for relief, there are plenty of people avoiding treatment for the concern, thinking that heartburn and acid reflux are common enough problems that don’t require medical or surgical intervention. This is where the problem sets in when it comes to preventing esophageal cancer.

A diagnosis of GERD isn’t a prediction of getting esophageal cancer down the road, but it does increase your risk. The researchers at UCLA found that people who pursued treatment for their GERD and took steps to relieve heartburn and acid reflux were more successful at preventing esophageal cancer than those who resisted treatment early on.

One of the problems that many people run into is that it is hard to differentiate when a problem with heartburn has become something worse if you aren’t already receiving medical attention. A lot of people who develop esophageal cancer don’t experience any symptoms other than heartburn and acid reflux. If you aren’t willing to seek medical help for your chronic heartburn, early signs of cancer may go untreated as the disease continues to spread.

There are plenty of lifestyle habits that can make a small impact on the amount and severity of heartburn you are experiencing, but these dietary and exercise habits often aren’t enough to make real changes in the severity of GERD. Allowing your GERD to go untreated will only increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, so it is in your best interest to seek treatment early on for regular heartburn and acid reflux.


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Gluten Free, GERD Free?

Can going gluten free help you stop GERD in Ft. Worth or Dallas?Those who experience the bouts of heartburn and acid reflux that are a regular part of living with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD know the benefits of making lifestyle changes in their diet and exercise habits. Eating less acidic foods, making alterations to the amount of food you eat at one time, choosing when to dine and how soon after you eat to engage in physical activity all impact the severity of heartburn and reflux.

After getting surgical treatment like Nissen fundoplication in Dallas and Ft. Worth, many people are able to return to former habits without the interference of heartburn and reflux, but before getting surgery a lot of people cling to ideas of cure-all diets they hope might work. One of the more popular diet fads to take Dallas and Ft. Worth by storm is the gluten-free diet—a diet that was founded thanks to a gluten allergy among people with celiac disease. A small body of research has linked celiac disease and GERD, but before you swear off wheat, barley and rye it is smart to learn the ins and outs of the gluten-free and GERD connection.

Can Gluten Cause GERD?

In 2011 an article was published in Diseases of the Esophagus that outlined the findings of numerous studies, citing that a gluten free diet can control heartburn and acid reflux. One study in particular examined the effects of GERD medications on gluten-intolerant people who followed a strict gluten-free diet. The researchers found that those on the gluten-free diet responded more favorably to GERD treatment than those not following the diet. However, this study was among gluten intolerant people, and so the results aren’t necessarily relevant for those without gluten intolerance.

Only about one percent of the U.S population has celiac disease, but there are many more people who are at least mildly sensitive to gluten and unaware of their sensitivity. Since wheat is such a common part of the American diet, a lot of people feel ill without knowing what the source of the problem is.

Research regarding GERD and gluten-free diets indicates that if you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, then a gluten free diet might alleviate symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. However, if frequent heartburn has led to irritation of the esophageal lining or damage to the lower esophageal sphincter, then simply eliminating gluten from your diet isn’t going to fix the damage that has already been done. Also, if you don’t have a gluten allergy, there is little proof that a gluten-free diet will help your heartburn.

So, while a gluten free diet might help some find relief from frequent heartburn, it doesn’t work for everyone. Before making any changes to your diet it is best that you speak with your physician.


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For GERD, Rethinking Drinking

Rethink what you drink for GERD in Ft. Worth or DallasIf you suffer from persistent heartburn or acid reflux, your reflux specialist has likely stressed the importance of monitoring your dietary and lifestyle habits to successfully manage the symptoms of your GERD. Ft. Worth and Dallas are home to some of the nation’s most famous Southern-style restaurants, offering residents and visitors alike a true taste of Texas with recipes from spicy chili to fried chicken. Unfortunately for many sufferers of GERD, eating such spicy or rich foods isn’t always the best idea for dealing with unruly acid reflux.

However, a new study published by Mayo Clinic reveals it’s not always the foods you eat that exacerbate symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux—in fact, sufferers may want to pay more attention to what they’re drinking. Even for non-sufferers of GERD, occasional bouts of heartburn or reflux can still occur. When this happens, most are quick to point the blame at heavy or fatty meals they’re eating rather than the beverages they’re drinking.

Why Certain Drinks Affect Heartburn and GERD

Alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated beverages all have a temporary yet direct effect on heartburn. Such drinks have the ability to affect heartburn or acid reflux via a ring of muscle that’s located at the junction between the stomach and esophagus known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Specifically, consuming alcohol causes the esophageal sphincter to relax, creating an opening that should otherwise be closed except when food is passing through the esophagus. As a result, stomach acids can easily reflux back into the esophagus, causing the burning sensation that many experience in their chest and throat.

The same goes for beverages containing caffeine like coffee or tea. The caffeine in such drinks also has the ability to relax the LES, making it easier for stomach acids to flow back into the esophageal tract. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who drinks alcoholic or caffeinated beverages will experience symptoms of reflux or heartburn. Some people may be predisposed to such conditions and have a weak or faulty LES in the first place. Also, being severely overweight or obese can significantly increase one chances of experiencing such symptoms.

This is not to say that cutting back on alcohol or caffeine will alleviate symptoms of GERD, but it may help for those who experience occasional bouts of heartburn. Occasional sufferers of heartburn may also benefit from making small changes to their diets, but not necessarily changes that include eliminating spicy or citrus-based foods assumed to exacerbate heartburn. According to one of the researchers from the Mayo Clinic study, people are afraid of orange juice or tomato sauce (foods believed to trigger heartburn) but, in fact, there’s no clear link between such foods and acid reflux.

To successfully avoid occasional bouts of heartburn or acid reflux, it’s best to practice a little common sense and take a mindful approach to eating. If you know a particular food is sure to disagree with you, avoid it—but you should modify the way you eat along with what you eat. It’s simple: avoid consuming large meals in a short amount of time. Instead, slow down and eat smaller meals. Take your time savoring each bite of your food, paying close attention to its smell, texture and taste as you chew slowly. Do this for each small meal you consume and it may help with symptoms of reflux.


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Common Heartburn Myths

Common myths about heartburn, reflux and GERD in Ft. WorthWith common conditions like heartburn and GERD, it doesn’t take long before Ft. Worth is filled with rumors and old wives’ tales about treatment options and causes. Once enough people are coping with a condition, myths about causes and treatments develop overnight. Know this: once your lower esophageal sphincter becomes dysfunctional, the only successful treatment for GERD is surgical intervention like Nissen fundoplication.

Some myths about heartburn lead people to believe that the pain is no big deal and there is nothing you can do about it, while others lead people to try absurd home remedies that can end up making the pain worse.

Here are a few of the most common heartburn myths we’ve heard from around Dallas and Ft. Worth.

  • Heartburn relief is an antacid away: A lot of people believe that no matter how severe or frequent their heartburn is they can find relief through antacids—lots of antacids. This leads people to start popping antacids like Tic Tacs, ultimately introducing the at-first seldom use of medication as a regular part of their diet. If you are experiencing frequent heartburn then you are most likely in need of more comprehensive treatment.
  • Heartburn is only caused by a poor diet: While it is true that certain acidic foods aggravate heartburn, chronic heartburn is often a result of a damaged lower esophageal sphincter. If the LES doesn’t close properly then acid is able to escape from the stomach and aggravate the esophageal lining—leading to heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Heartburn is annoying, but not medically serious: The occasional bout of heartburn might not be indicative of a more serious concern, but a damaged LES and regular heartburn can cause damage to the esophageal lining. While severe health consequences from heartburn are rare, developing conditions like Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer are not out of the realm of possibility as a result of untreated chronic heartburn and acid reflux.
  • The only cure to nighttime heartburn is to sleep sitting up: There are plenty of ways you can manage to get a good night’s sleep with nighttime heartburn, and you don’t need to sit erect all night in order to do so. Putting a few extra pillows under your head at night to keep you slightly elevated often helps, as does slightly lifting the top of your bed. Avoiding large meals at night and after dinner snacks are also generally helpful in avoiding nighttime heartburn.

Approximately 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn, and a large percentage of those people are pursuing treatment with their acid reflux specialist so they don’t need to cope with the irritating symptoms day and night. Treating your heartburn can provide you with a better night’s sleep, the ability to enjoy a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle without the interference of heartburn.


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Mom-to-Be Heartburn Relief

Reduce pregnancy heartburn and indigestion with your GERD surgeon in Dallas and Ft. WorthYou’ve been warned about the off-the-wall cravings, the ankle swelling and the many, many mood swings that typically accompany pregnancy. You’ve bought the baby books, searched for names and possibly even narrowed your search down to your top 20 favorites but what happens when those less-anticipated side effects of pregnancy strike?

You may be surprised to learn that more than 50 percent of all pregnant women report symptoms of severe heartburn and indigestion. Dallas and Ft. Worth moms to be already have enough on their plate to figure out before they welcome their newborns into the world without the added stresses of heartburn and acid indigestion.

What causes heartburn during pregnancy?

Heartburn refers to the sensation of pain, discomfort or tightness in the middle of the chest and sometimes follows the occurrence of acid reflux. Incidence of heartburn or acid indigestion in pregnancy can be attributed to two main factors: hormonal changes and your growing baby.

Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and thereby allow stomach acids to reflux back up into the esophagus. Such hormonal changes can also affect the digestive tract and how different foods are tolerated. In addition to changes in hormone levels, the growing fetus can crowd the abdomen and push stomach acids upward. Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can help prevent heartburn safely without hurting your baby.

Reduce heartburn aggravation with the following tips during pregnancy:

  • Try to avoid spicy or rich foods that may cause relaxation of the LES and potentially increase your risk of heartburn. If you do experience symptoms of aggravation after eating a particular food, write what you ate down in a journal to keep track of your heartburn trigger to avoid possible incidence in the future.
  • Try to eat smaller meals throughout the day and at a slower pace. Eating large quantities at one sitting can lead to decrease in LES pressure and increase your chances of experiencing heartburn. Eating smaller meals also allows the stomach to empty more rapidly which increases stomach contractions and decreases incidence of heartburn.
  • Try not to drink large amounts of liquid while eating as this may increase the risk of acid reflux as well as heartburn. If you need to drink, sip slowly and only consume small volumes at one time.
  • Do not lie down directly after eating a meal. Instead, try going on a walk so your body can properly digest your food in an upright position.
  • When sleeping, try to adjust the angle at which you sleep by elevating your head and back of shoulders with pillows. If possible, you can lower the bottom of your bed so you lie at an incline whenever in bed to help prevent stomach acids from rising into your chest.
  • Avoid consuming excess amounts of caffeine, chocolate or peppermint as they’re known to decrease LES pressure which can increase your risk of heartburn.
  • Try to wear clothing that’s relatively loose. When close are tight-fitting and cling to your body, this can increase pressure on your stomach and abdomen and potentially lead to the backflow up stomach contents into the chest and esophagus.

For the most part, heartburn incidence during pregnancy is easily treated and typically subsides after giving birth. However, if you’re experiencing severe pain or frequent symptoms of chronic acid reflux, after your baby is born, you may benefit from speaking with your local GERD doctor or GERD surgeon.


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The Treacherous Waters of the Local Fish Market

Navigating the fish market after visiting your GERD surgeon in Dallas or Ft. WorthDallas may be five hours from the coast, but our fine city is still full of the bounty of the sea. From five-star restaurants to teeming fish markets, Dallas residents have plenty of options when it comes to finding fish, which may be a great thing for those who suffer from heartburn. As your GERD surgeon and any nutritionist will tell you, fish is one of the very best sources of protein for your diet—a less fatty alternative to the cholesterol-packed red meat and pork that may spark reflux symptoms in many GERD patients.

Yet, when many of us hit the local fishery for some fresh, flippered food, we may find that there are actually too many fish in the sea. Hitting the seafood counter at your supermarket can often raise more questions than answers. Though we often see labels that make claims like “wild caught,” we may not know how these options differ from farmed fish. We may have heard about mercury contamination, but not everyone is familiar with exactly what that entails.

Chock full of omega-3 fatty acids that can protect you from heart disease and inflammation, fish can be a healthy and tasty part of any seafood enthusiast’s diet. Consistently skipping the fish counter may mean that you’re also skipping the many benefits that eating fish can provide. If you find yourself leaving the market without fish because of unanswered questions, here’s some information that you may find helpful.

What’s the difference between “wild caught” and “farm-raised”?

You’ll often see these terms used for salmon, which may well be the fish most admired for its high nutritional value. However, farm-raised salmon can contain dangerous PCBs, which are manmade chemicals that were once used in a number of different manufacturing and industrial processes.

Though PCBs were banned from use in 1979 because of their toxicity, they do not break down easily and have remained in the environment, cycling between water, air and soil as they’ve slowly spread. They can gradually build up in the bodies of fish and have been linked to cancer and problems in the endocrine, reproductive, immune and nervous systems.

Those in the know refer to fish farming as “aquaculture” and many highlight the practice as an important way to keep our consumption of fish sustainable and prevent the overfishing of oceans and waterways. Yet, some environmental groups warn that fish farming can actually be detrimental for natural ecosystems. Ultimately, the impact and healthiness of aquaculture comes down to the species, methodology and location.

Monterey, California’s popular Monterey Bay Aquarium has done a lot of advocacy work to educate people about the potential dangers of the fish we eat. They’ve compiled a list of the fish that have the lowest impact on the environment and our health for each region of the United States. For Dallas residents and everyone else in the Southeast, here are the fish that Monterey Bay considers safe to buy farmed.

  • Rainbow trout
  • Tilapia
  • Arctic char
  • Baramundi
  • Catfish

What’s all this about mercury contamination?

Pollution has, unfortunately, made mercury contamination prevalent in many different bodies of water. Despite the recognized dangers of mercury pollution, attempts to regulate industrial sources of the contaminant have so far been largely unsuccessful, making it a persistent problem.

Mercury attacks the nervous system and brain when it enters the human body, creating the potential for problems with vision, memory and even blood pressure regulation. Though it can spell trouble for any human being, mercury poisoning is most detrimental to children, who can develop learning disabilities or experience delays in how quickly they learn to talk or walk. This makes avoiding mercury contamination important for expectant mothers as well.

Bacteria break down mercury in waterways, but this doesn’t remove the problem. Rather, this broken down mercury moves up the food chain as small fish are eaten by larger ones. This results in a slow build-up of mercury in larger fish like swordfish, sharks and tunas, who may ultimately reach up to 10,000 times the mercury content of their surrounding waters.

Monterey Bay suggests avoiding or limiting consumption of the following fish because of mercury contamination:

  • Swordfish
  • Yellowfin, bluefin and bigeye tuna
  • Grouper
  • Blue-striped marlin
  • Sharks

Fish can be a big boon for your reflux diet, helping you eat valuable protein without the resulting heartburn. However, not all fish are equally healthy for your body or the environment. Though these may be among the most important factors to consider when buying fish, you can continue to educate yourself on buying healthy fish by visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Page.


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Suffering from Heartburn? Think Twice Before You Light

Quit smoking to relieve heartburn and indigestion in Dallas and Ft. WorthIn the state of Texas, nearly 18.5 percent of the overall adult population—more than three million individuals—smoke cigarettes. Many of these three million smokers live right here in Dallas and Ft. Worth. Heartburn and indigestion aren’t the typical side effects that come to mind when cigarette smoking and tobacco use is of concern, but they are in fact potential side effects.

Studies show a definitive link between smoking and GERD as well as some of the worst complications of GERD. Heartburn is a prevalent symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease and therefore any activity that contributes to GERD can contribute to heartburn—smoking is no exception. People who smoke cigarettes probably won’t be too surprised to hear that quitting their habit may help to offer heartburn and acid reflux relief.

Unfortunately for many, quitting smoking to relieve such symptoms is easier said than done. What’s more, some people aren’t even aware that tobacco use in general can exacerbate heartburn, meaning pipe tobacco, cigars, chew and snuff can all worsen the condition.

Here are four ways tobacco use can increase your risk of heartburn:

  • Lowers LES pressure which impairs the functionality of the stomach valve
  • Increases production of stomach acid
  • Reduces saliva production which is responsible for flushing acid out of the esophagus as you swallow and neutralizing digestive juices
  • Further irritates the lining of the esophagus

Tobacco Can Exacerbate GERD Complications

Studies show that excessive tobacco use increases the long-term risk of GERD while chronic acid reflux is more likely to damage the esophageal lining in people who frequently use tobacco than those who do not. What’s more, any damage due to acid reflux will take longer to heal for people who use tobacco. Over time, continuous tobacco use in GERD sufferers can lead to some serious complications including Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Quitting Tobacco May Relieve Heartburn

Many experts agree that people who frequently use tobacco are likely to find relief of heartburn in just a few short days of quitting. What’s more, they believe that even just cutting back on tobacco use can offer some sort of reprieve from aggravating symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. Unfortunately for many tobacco users, the damage to their esophageal lining is already done—it’s hard for the lining of the esophagus to heal itself properly after so many years of abuse.

Though quitting may not be able to repair your esophageal lining, this is not to say you should give up on the idea of quitting altogether. Despite subsequent heartburn relief, the health benefits of quitting smoking are evident, as long-term tobacco use is linked with myriad severe health complications. Even if you don’t see an improvement with heartburn or acid reflux after quitting tobacco, there are other dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your condition. If severe pain as or chronic acid reflux symptoms persist, don’t hesitate to speak with your GERD surgeon.


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Glass Half Full of Alkaline Water

Try alkaline water for heartburn and indigestion in Dallas and Ft. WorthNeither acidic nor neutral, alkaline water may just be the right pH for sufferers of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in Dallas and Ft. Worth. Heartburn, indigestion and regurgitation are just some of the irritating symptoms most people with GERD combat on a daily basis. However, new research suggests alkaline water, also known as ionized water, may help reverse the corrosive side effects of acid reflux disease. Compared to normal water which has a neutral pH of 7, alkaline water falls around 8 or more on the pH scale, or within the “alkaline” range (pH between 1.0 and 6.9 is considered “acidic”).

But what does pH have to do with GERD?

Most people aren’t aware that pH levels in the body have a great deal of influence on our overall health. Each different part of our body is associated with a different pH level and so normal bodily function is necessary for maintaining the many different pH levels in our bodies. Diet is one of the main factors that contribute to the body’s maintenance of appropriate pH levels.

Unfortunately, most American diets contain food items that can give rise to unhealthy, acidic pH levels. Not only can diet-related pH imbalance interrupt cellular functioning—excessively acidic pH can lead to the progression of severe health issues including heartburn, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Untreated heartburn resulting from high stomach acidity (pH level of 2.0) can give rise to the following complications:

  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Narrowing of the esophagus
  • Ulcers of the esophagus

Researchers have recently gained interest in determining if the different levels of acidity, particularly in sources of water, play a part in exacerbating symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux in GERD sufferers.

The Study

The research team set out to study the effects of alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 on the enzyme pepsin. Pepsin is a stomach enzyme that is often activated by acid and can lead to serious and painful reflux symptoms. While ordinary tap and bottled water had no effects on the enzyme, natural artesian alkaline water immediately inactivated the stomach enzyme pepsin in a series of laboratory studies. What’s more, the artesian water which contained natural bicarbonate appeared to be an effective buffer against acid.

The study’s findings help to shed some light on the many therapeutic benefits of alkaline water. With an 850 percent increase in reflux-related esophageal cancer since the 1970s, researchers of the study believe the American diet is still to blame. Researchers point to the tissues of the voice box in many sufferers of GERD as evidence as more often than not the damaging digestive enzyme pepsin is present. When GERD sufferers consume acidic foods and beverages, the reaction between acids and enzyme is a corrosive one. When pepsin is bound to tissue, acidic food and drink exacerbate symptoms of sore throat, hoarseness, asthma and sinusitis and may even cause cancer in some cases.

Alkaline Water for Symptoms of GERD

Water is water and no matter what your body depends on it for survival. Alkaline water will hydrate and keep your body functioning properly just as normal tap water does. However, if you’re concerned that your tap water in Dallas and Ft. Worth may be slightly acidic and possibly what’s causing your upsets with GERD, there’s no harm in trying alkaline water out to see if your symptoms improve. Alkaline water can be purchased in bottled form at many grocery stores or you can invest in a specialty filter to attach to your tap at home. In the meantime, if you’re experiencing severe chronic symptoms of acid reflux, it may be wise to speak with your reflux surgeon.


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Breaking Away from GERD

The benefits of biking to beat reflux

Beat GERD and heartburn with cycling and your Dallas reflux surgeon

If you suffer from heartburn, indigestion or the many other discomforts of GERD, there may not be one specific cause. Often, GERD develops as the result of many intersecting lifestyle factors that coalesce into one painful, irritating problem. Though your GERD surgeon is the only one who can reliably provide you with relief from these symptoms, addressing the lifestyle factors that contribute to your reflux can be a big help in feeling better.

Two of the most common causes of GERD, obesity and stress, may shed some light on why the condition is so ubiquitous in America. With two thirds of our populace now overweight or obese and most of us struggling to manage all the stressful factors of our daily lives, it’s small wonder that so many face the pain of heartburn and reflux each and every day.

But for those who have developed GERD as a result of weight or stress concerns, there is hope yet— exercise is a valuable tool in tackling both problems. Though exercise to fight GERD can come in just about any form, reflux patients in Dallas and Ft. Worth should consider one of the most relaxing and enjoyable workouts around when picking an exercise for reflux reduction: cycling.

Hop up on that steel horse—it’s time to break the cycle of GERD.

Riding a bike is low-impact and easy, a workout that is just as beneficial as it is accessible. Nearly anyone at any age or fitness level can ride a bike, but cycling provides a form of transportation and recreation on top of being a great workout.

Biking will help you build both lower and upper body strength while burning calories and putting less pressure on your joints than more intense, high-impact activities like running. At a leisurely pace of less than 10 miles per hour, a 240-pound person can burn over 400 calories in an hour, while pushing the pace faster will allow you to burn even more. Biking improves your circulation, which will benefit your cardiovascular health and may be particularly important to those who find themselves at a higher risk of heart problems caused by excess weight.

Research has also shown that avid cyclists may have an overall better mood and even perform better at work, proving its reliability as a stress-reducing tool. Though cycling can be done indoors, as on an exercise bike, taking your bike ride to local trails or parks can also give you the stress-busting benefits of nature, a proven asset in improving your concentration.

The Cycling Workout: Your Action Plan

Many people are drawn to biking because of how easy it is to mold to your individual needs. You can take your bike just about anywhere and at any speed. If you feel like a quick workout on the way to the grocery store, you can put a basket on the front of your bike and carry your food home with you. If you live within a reasonable distance of your office and want an alternate, active way to get to work in the morning, you can make the trip on your bike a few times a week. You can go as far, as fast and as often as you want—the choice is ultimately up to you.

Safe, accessible, malleable—cycling is one of the best exercises around to burn calories and beat stress. If you’re looking for an easy and fun way to beat GERD, try hopping on your bike more often. Pick a destination—or don’t—and ride until your heart (burn) is content.


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The Obesity and GERD Connection

Obesity may be connected to heartburn in Dallas and Ft. WorthThose who suffer from heartburn in Dallas and Ft. Worth might attribute their frequent reflux to the Texas sized portions and barbeque staples that are favorites in this state. Well, you may not be too far off with this line of reasoning. Instead of just avoiding spicy foods to cut down on your heartburn, it could be a wise decision to improve your diet altogether.

A plethora of studies have been conducted over the past 50 years drawing connections between obesity and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). At least six studies conducted between 1966 and 2004 show a significant connection between the two conditions. In absolutely no circumstances was there any evidence that being obese improved the symptoms of GERD. In fact, one theme remained present among studies across the decades:

As body mass index (BMI) increased, so did the frequency and severity of GERD symptoms.

GERD develops as a result of a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which is the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. As food is swallowed, the LES opens to permit it to travel out of the esophagus, and then it closes promptly to prevent any digestive juices from backwashing into the throat. When the LES doesn’t work correctly, acid flows frequently into the esophagus, irritating the esophageal lining and causing reflux, regurgitation and heartburn.

The only way to effectively treat this condition is with surgery, but your GERD surgeon can give you medication and encourage you to make lifestyle changes that often lessen the severity of the symptoms. That is where losing weight comes in.

Researchers have been unable to pinpoint an exact reason as to why obesity and GERD are connected. They do however speculate that carrying excess weight increases pressure on the stomach, which could increase the likelihood of damaging the LES. Whatever the anatomical connection is, the statistical significance of the connection is clear. Rates of GERD have increased steadily over the past 20 years, and an estimated 45 million Americans now suffer from the disease. This rise in diagnosis correlates with the rise of obesity in the United States.

Losing weight isn’t going to fix GERD, but it can make the symptoms a lot less severe. If you are overweight or obese and experiencing frequent heartburn or acid reflux, then talk with Dr. Ihde about ways that you can manage your symptoms by changing your diet or increasing your activity. Surgery for GERD is necessary in severe cases of heartburn, but with sufficient changes in lifestyle and diet you might be able to lessen your symptoms and find relief from GERD.


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