WLS Acid reflux

Understanding acid reflux

If you regularly suffer from acid reflux then you will be used to avoiding acid-forming foods such as tomatoes, fruit juice and onions which trigger the unpleasant symptoms. 

Acid reflux is also known as gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which occurs when acids travel back up from the stomach into the oesophagus and cause a burning sensation in the chest. 

Contrary to popular beliefs, acid reflux is not caused not by an overproduction of acid in the stomach but by a weak muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) which is a valve that allows food to pass into the stomach. Irritation occurs when the LES is weak and does not close immediately after swallowing. Acid flows back up the valve causing pain, inflammation and eventually damaging the oesophagus.

If you are overweight or smoke you are more likely to suffer from acid reflux. Losing weight and making healthy lifestyle changes can cure the disease. Many bariatric surgery patients find the symptoms of acid reflux gets much better as they lose weight. In some cases, especially for gastric sleeve patients, acid reflux can get worse.

Acid reflux and sleeve gastrectomy

A small percentage of gastric sleeve patients will develop acid reflux who did not have any symptoms before having the surgery. You can buy antacids or prescription medications to neutralise stomach acidity and relieve the symptoms.

If you have light symptoms of acid reflux then try including more alkaline foods into your diet. Replacing acid forming foods with items such as cauliflower, kale, asparagus and avocado. Swap milk and dairy for almond milk and soft goats cheese. 

If you are experiencing more severe symptoms of acid reflux you should speak to your GP and surgeon to determine if you are a candidate for revisional surgery. There is the possibility you will need to convert to a gastric bypass.

Symptoms, causes and complications

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that most people will experience at some point in their lifetime. Frequent reflux can lead damage to the lining of the oesophagus; cause a narrowing of the oesophagus known as stricture or even cause cancer.

While some people are born with a weak LES sphincter for others it may weaken over time. A hiatal hernia or weakness in the muscles surrounding the lower oesophagus also contributes to the development of acid reflux.