A long-term cure for heartburn, right here in Birmingham—here’s how

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A community built on care. Photo via Brookwood Baptist Medical Center on Facebook

Do you keep antacids on hand at all times? Do you avoid spicy foods at dinnertime, or altogether? Well, the wellness experts at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center have some good news for you. Read on to learn about an innovative procedure available there that could rid you of that pesky heartburn forever.

So… what exactly is GERD?

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It might seem common, but it’s not something you have to live with. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Weird name, I know. GERD stands for “gastroesophageal reflux disease” and it occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus. If you forgot most of what you learned in high school biology, that’s the tube connecting your mouth and stomach.

We caught up with Dr. Cameron Askew, a bariatric and general surgeon at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, to learn more about GERD and who is affects.

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You can follow this link to find a physician like Dr. Askew who’s ready to help you on your wellness journey. Photo via Brookwood Baptist Health

“Reflux is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases in the United States—it affects everyone. It affects all ages, it affects males and females. GERD is a very common universal disease. Acid reflux and heartburn are different names people know it by…

People live with daily symptoms, so it can be very disruptive. A lot of people take medical therapy, whether it be over-the-counter or prescription medication for GERD.”

Dr. Cameron Askew, bariatric and general surgeon, Brookwood Baptist Medical Center

Tons of people experience some level of acid reflux. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’ve officially crossed into GERD territory when you’re experiencing mild acid reflux at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux at least once a week.

If that sounds like you or someone you know, you’re in luck.

What are the symptoms?

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Don’t worry—you don’t have to give up all your favorite foods. Photo via @theblackrabbit on Unsplash

Any of this sound familiar? Symptoms of GERD can include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which might be worse at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat

There are several treatment options for GERD, but historically, they fall a bit short.

GERD patients used to only have two options: daily medication dependence, often with incomplete symptom control, OR taking on the risks and long-term side effects of traditional surgery.

Even if you’re popping Tums every single day, you’re still only going to see short-term relief. Many GERD patients are still unable to eat the foods they want without facing all kinds of issues, like having to sleep sitting up to reduce nighttime reflux.

How do you treat it?

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The extraordinary team of professionals in the Brookwood Baptist Health System is ready to get you feeling great. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Well, it’s easier than you might think! Brookwood Baptist Medical Center is now offering a new-to-Birmingham procedure called the TIF 2.0.

This endoscopic procedure is minimally invasive while still allowing physicians to effectively treat the root cause of moderate to severe GERD.

The TIF procedure lands in that sweet spot between pharmacological therapy and traditional surgeries, both of which can have all kinds of ugly side effects.

TIF stands for Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, but don’t worry if that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you. The biggest takeaway is the “incision-less” part.

Hint: when it comes to medical care, it’s generally accepted that the fewer incisions, the better.

“For a patient who wants procedural management, but isn’t quite ready for the more aggressive surgery, this is the in-between option. It’s a bit lower-risk, but still has really good results.”

Dr. Cameron Askew, bariatric and general surgeon, Brookwood Baptist Medical Center

I mentioned that the procedure is new-to-Birmingham because while it’s just recently become available at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, it’s not a new concept. In fact, more than 25,000 TIF procedures have been performed worldwide since 2007.

Who is eligible for treatment?

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You never know what friendly faces you’re going to run into at Brookwood. Photo via Brookwood Baptist Medical Center on Facebook

The TIF procedure isn’t just an option for the most severe cases. It’s now the preferred solution for patients with moderate to severe GERD.

Brookwood Baptist Medical Center often recommends the procedure for patients who are:

  • Dissatisfied with pharmaceutical therapies and the burdensome lifestyle changes (sleeping positions, strictly timed eating, etc.) that they are forced to utilize to manage their symptoms
  • Suffering from non-acid symptoms of reflux such as asthma, persistent cough or sore throat
  • Frustrated with progressively increasing dosages of their reflux medications that may or may not be controlling their symptoms
  • Concerned about the potential long-term side effects of medication or traditional surgery

Think you might be interested? Find a physician at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center to learn more and see if the TIF procedure might be right for you.

Want more tips and tricks for healthy living? Get advice from the experts at Brookwood Baptist Health right here.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.