Acid Reflux After Gastric Sleeve: How Often Does This Side Effect Happen?

Having a major bariatric surgery like gastric sleeve (aka sleeve gastrectomy) always involves some risks and inconveniences. Acid reflux is one of the most common side effects and complications after gastric sleeve. In this article, we will talk about this side effect, why it happens, and tips on how to manage or avoid it.

Why Does Acid Reflux Happen?

Acid reflux is a condition when acids in your stomach go up into the esophagus – a corridor that connects the stomach and your throat. When food or a drink enters your mouth, it travels through the esophagus and then gets to the stomach. There is a kind of cap made up of muscles, a sphincter, that opens only when it senses food or drink and shuts down again after the food is in. It does not let the food go from the stomach back to the esophagus.

However, sometimes this sphincter does not work properly and lets the acids from the stomach flow back into the esophagus. That’s when your esophagus becomes irritated or inflamed and you get an uncomfortable and painful feeling. During heartburn, you can feel a burning sensation in your chest where your esophagus is located.

Acid Reflux And Gastric Sleeve

Obesity is a common cause of acid reflux or a more serious form of it called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Therefore, you might expect that after weight loss surgery the GERD will go away. However, since the surgery changes the anatomy of the stomach, it often can lead to increased abdominal pressure, issues with the reduced lower esophagus sphincter tone, nutcracker esophagus, and other consequences that won’t eliminate acid reflux or GERD but worsen it.

How Likely Are You To Suffer Acid Reflux After Gastric Sleeve?

After gastric sleeve surgery, your stomach is reduced by almost 80%. It becomes suddenly very tiny and as we know, the less the volume, the higher the pressure. The pressure in your stomach gets a lot higher than before and causes the sphincter to open up and the acids to get into the esophagus. It might be one of the reasons why some people develop or worsen acid reflux symptoms after a gastric sleeve.

Your chances of developing or worsening acid reflux after gastric sleeve are quite high. According to a meta-analysis, the majority of gastric sleeve patients (57.8%) were found to have GERD symptoms.

In another study, 26% of gastric sleeve patients had already had GERD before the surgery. After the surgery, the number of patients with acid reflux grew to 61.6%. According to the same study, new symptoms of GERD were found. From this, we can see that only a tiny portion of patients (3.22%) got rid of acid reflux thanks to gastric sleeve surgery.

All the patients who had acid reflux post-op symptoms used medications to cope and cure their symptoms. In cases when pharmacotherapy failed, surgical intervention was used. If GERD is left untreated, over time, it only worsens and intensifies. When a group of patients were followed up after 5 years, the researchers learned that 65% of them still suffered from GERD symptoms.

How Dangerous Is Heartburn After Gastric Sleeve?

While heartburn after gastric sleeve might be perceived by people as a minor inconvenience, if it persists for a longer period of time, it might cause serious injuries and problems to your health. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious form of acid reflux. If this condition goes untreated, over time it might turn into more serious issues like sores, ulcers, and strictures in your esophagus. It can also cause a condition called Barret’s esophagus in which the constant flow of acid changes cells in your esophagus and increases the risk of developing esophagus cancer.

There is a quite high chance of developing or worsening acid reflux after gastric sleeve. If you have GERD symptoms, it is best to talk to your doctor about it before the surgery to prepare yourself for the risks ahead.

What To Take For Heartburn After Gastric Sleeve

If you are struggling with horrible heartburn after gastric sleeve and need immediate help, you might get prescribed one of the medications called antacids, H2 receptor blockers, or proton pump inhibitors. These medications can help you manage acid reflux after gastric sleeve, however, they can have side effects if used for a long time. They also cannot solve the issue completely. You need to take additional steps to ensure acid reflux does not come back or worsen.

How To Get Rid Of Heartburn After Gastric Sleeve

If your life got uncomfortable due to acid reflux then you have to reconsider your diet and lifestyle. Heartburn may be caused by a mix of several factors, like increased pressure in your new stomach sleeve, as well as what and how much you eat.

4 Tips That Might Help You Fight Heartburn

  1. Do not eat late at night so that the food you eat does not stay in your stomach when you lie down.
  2. Eat smaller portions, so that the sphincter does not open because of a large volume of food.
  3. Some patients with persistent post-op acid reflux can solve their issues by converting gastric sleeve to gastric bypass. This step can help reduce or eliminate the GERD symptoms. However, having surgery is always risky and costly. Therefore, this might not be an option for many people. Thus, before deciding to do a gastric sleeve, you are highly recommended to be aware of all the cons and pros and decide for yourself if you are ready to take this level of risk.
  4. If you are just considering undergoing a gastric sleeve and researching this surgery, make sure to learn about safer weight loss solutions.

Safe Weight Loss Solutions By A Doctor With 30 Years Of Experience

For 30 years, Dr. Batash has been helping patients all over the country to lose weight in a safe, effective, and comfortable way. He and his multidisciplinary medical team offer modern weight loss solutions that are completely non-surgical, meaning there are no incisions and cuts and health risks always associated with surgery. Dr. Batash’s advanced weight loss methods work in conjunction with a lifestyle coaching program and continuous support from him and his team. Therefore, under the guidance of such a dedicated and caring doctor, patients can enjoy their lives while working for their health and weight loss goals. Call us now to learn more and change your life with ease and joy.

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