GERD Treatment: Is Gastric Bypass Surgery a Cure?

by Cheryl Ann Borne Patient Advocate

What is GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux, also referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is when the contents of the stomach are returned to the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the muscle between the
esophagus and the stomach. The LES will normally open to allow food into the stomach and close to prevent it from returning to the esophagus. GERD occurs when the LES is weak or relaxed, and the contents of the stomach return to the esophagus. The severity of GERD is contingent on the level of LES dysfunction.

The Causes of GERD Factors that contribute to GERD are hiatal hernia, cigarette smoking, and pregnancy. Diet is also an important factor. Foods and beverages such as chocolate, fried foods or fatty foods, coffee, and alcohol contribute to GERD. Obesity can also be responsible for GERD.

Obesity and GERD

As noted by Texas GERD Institute, several studies have discovered that excess weight nearly doubles the possibility for GERD symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation of acid, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.

Those people who are obese are about three times more likely than normal weight individuals to develop esophageal cancer.

A more recent study cited by Texas GERD Institute maintains that obese people can be up to six times more likely than normal weight people to have gastroesophogeal reflux.

Overweight, pre-menopausal women who have had hormone therapy have the strongest link.

Nearly two-thirds of America adults are currently overweight, and esophageal cancer has quadrupled in the last twenty years while an estimated 20% of American adults have GERD.

GERD as a Phenomenon Beyond the United States

Obesity is a problem that has spread well beyond the United States.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Eivind Ness-Jensen at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Levanger maintain that GERD has risen in Norway by almost 50% in the last ten years. Ness-Jensen specifies esophageal cancer as a point of concern. The incidence of this cancer is increasing and may continue to rise. Ness-Jensen points out that there are very few treatments for this type of cancer and that the prognosis is quite poor.

There is universal agreement that poor diet and obesity are the culprits responsible for the rise in GERD. There is much evidence to support the contention that losing weight will improve the situation. Many people are not aware that gastric bypass surgery nearly cures GERD.

Gastric Bypass Surgery as a Relief for GERD Among Obese Patients

Research conducted by Dr. Fernando Fornari of the University of Passo Fundo shows that gastric bypass surgery successfully alleviated GERD in most of the 86 obese patients who were evaluated. Substantial improvements in heartburn symptoms were also noted.

The patients in the study were evaluated before gastric bypass surgery was performed as well as 6 months after the gastric bypass surgery had been done.

Of the forty-nine patients who had reflux syndrome prior to gastric bypass surgery, thirty-nine were symptom free within six months after weight-loss surgery.

Gastric Bypass Cured My GERD

I once suffered terribly from GERD. I can clearly recall the burning in my throat and mouth. So intense, it would awaken me from sleep gasping for air and unable to talk. The very first time it happened, I had no idea what was going on and I was panicked.

In 2003, I had gastric bypass surgery. I lost weight quickly, a total of 100-lbs. in all. Thinking back, I believe that my GERD was cured immediately after the surgery. It is a big relief and one of the many health benefits I recieved from my weight-loss surgery.

How Can Gastric Bypass Surgery Cure GERD?

The reason gastric bypass surgery can cure GERD is that the very small upper stomach (the pouch) created during the surgery has very few cells that can produce acid. The acid producing portion of the stomach is disconnected from the esophagus. So the GERD usually goes away -- often on the first day after the gastric bypass is complete.

Patients no longer have acid reflux. They are free from the symptoms of GERD. This gives the esophagus time to heal, and stops the ongoing chronic injury caused by acid reflux.

Gulf Coast Bariatrics
accessed on 4/17/12
Texas GERD Institute
accessed 4/17/12
USA Today
accessed 4/17/12
accessed 4/17/12
Poplowski Baritric
accessed 4/24/12

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My Story...**

You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.

Cheryl Ann Borne
Meet Our Writer
Cheryl Ann Borne

Cheryl Ann Borne, writing as My Bariatric Life, is a contributing writer and Paleo recipe developer. Cheryl is an award-winning healthcare communications professional and obesity health advocate who has overcome super obesity and it’s related diseases. She publishes the website, and microblogs on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Cheryl is also writing her first book and working on a second website.