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9 Strategies to Treat Heartburn With Lap Band

9 Strategies to Treat Heartburn With Lap Band

Heartburn, or acid reflux, is the name of the game for many people who have a lap band procedure. Acid reflux is a condition where highly acidic gastric contents travel up the esophagus, creating a burning sensation in your chest and even your throat. Heartburn can affect anyone, but it is quite common in people who have a lap band placed for weight loss. If it is left untreated, heartburn can cause severe damage to the lining of your esophagus and can negatively affect your quality of life. Here are 9 strategies for treating heartburn with lap band.

#1 Eat With Your Stomach in Mind

If you have a lap band in place, you are likely already being cautious with how much you eat. Because there is a band placed around your stomach to limit the amount of food you can tolerate at one time, there is little room for overeating. However, if you are consistently struggling with heartburn, you may need to decrease your portion sizes even more. For example, you may want to split your meals into two portions or eat six small meals a day instead of three.

Aside from portion control, certain foods are notorious for aggravating lap band heartburn, including:

  • Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea
  • Chocolate
  • Carbonated beverages which expand your stomach with bubbles and place more pressure on your esophageal sphincter
  • Citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges
  • Tomatoes including ketchup, tomato soup, marinara
  • Fried food like french fries, onion rings, and fried chicken
  • Alcohol of any type as it relaxes the esophageal sphincter and increases acid production in the stomach.
  • Spicy food can also cause heartburn with lap band if it re-enters the esophagus once it has already been in the stomach.

Fortunately, foods that are lap band diet-approved are also helpful in quelling heartburn. For example, chicken (baked, broiled, or grilled), melons, avocados, eggs, spinach, and green beans are all healthy for your waistband, lap band, and esophagus.

Most foods approved for a lap band diet are also good choices for preventing lap band heartburn.

#2 Avoid Late-Night Meals

Late night meals are generally a step backward for people trying to lose weight, adopt a healthier diet, or avoid heartburn. Not only does eating late correlate with poor meal choices and increased food intake, but it also puts pressure on your esophageal sphincter when you are getting ready to kick your feet up and call it a day. If you need a snack later in the evening, choose a small, high-protein, low-calorie snack or beverage to help you feel full. It is helpful to sit upright for at least one hour before completely lying down.

#3 Exercise, But Not Right After Meals

Being sedentary has numerous health consequences, and heartburn is one of them. While you should not exercise or do too much movement after eating, it can help take a leisurely walk or do light activities in an upright position following meals.

Gravity is tremendously helpful in keeping stomach contents below the esophageal sphincter. And studies show that movement increases your digestive rate, meaning that food is not sitting in your stomach as long as it would be if you were sedentary. So, save your workouts for a time of day when you haven’t eaten for at least one hour and opt for a leisurely walk or light housework after bigger meals.

An easy stroll after a large meal is a great way to increase gastric motility.

#4 Try Antacids

Using antacids to treat heartburn with lap band is generally safe for most people. You can find them over-the-counter, and they have few side effects with short-term use. Examples of antacids that you can buy with or without a prescription include:

  • Calcium carbonate (like Rolaids or Tums)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer)
  • H2 blockers (like Pepcid AC and Zantac)
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (omeprazole, pantoprazole, etc.)

Taking antacids over a long period can have some health consequences. For example, an analysis of the current research on the long-term effects of using proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) suggests that it may increase your risk for gastric cancer.

Most over-the-counter antacids are safe and effective, but it is best to check with your doctor before adding medication to your treatment plan.

If you do have acid reflux, you can try taking an antacid for two weeks to see if it relieves your heartburn. However, it is best to consult your doctor before adding a new medication to your regime, especially if you have had a bariatric procedure like a lap band. Sometimes, heartburn with lap band can sign an H.pylori infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics to kill the overgrowth of this harmful bacteria.

#5 Avoid Restrictive Clothing

Wearing tight clothes and poorly-fitted undergarments can worsen lap band heartburn. While wearing looser clothing may not necessarily cure your heartburn, it is an easy, natural solution for decreasing pressure on your digestive tract following meals.

#6 Drink Ginger Root Tea

Humans have used ginger root for centuries to cure numerous ailments, including the common cold, toothaches, respiratory diseases, and indigestion. Studies suggest that ginger holds anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties.

Ginger has a carminative effect on digestion, meaning that its herbal properties help relieve gas in your upper and lower digestive tract. By alleviating gas, there is less pressure on your stomach, which has the effect of reducing acid leakage into your esophagus. Further studies also suggest that ginger helps increase gastric emptying. Unless you have had another bariatric procedure, like gastric bypass or duodenal switch, ginger should be safe to use as a natural remedy for heartburn. (People who have gastric bypass are at greater risk for dumping syndrome caused by an increase in intestinal motility).

You can take ginger in either a supplement form or steeped in a tea. If you drink ginger tea for heartburn, make sure to stay upright after drinking to prevent reflux.

Ginger tea is a natural and effective way to soothe the digestive tract.

#7 Sleep On An Incline

If heartburn does not go away by the time you are ready for bed, or if it starts once you are lying down, try to sleep on an incline. Propping yourself up on pillows can make a big difference. Some people even opt for sleeping in a reclining chair. However, if you find you need to sleep in a chair to get a good night’s rest without heartburn keeping you up, it’s time to see your doctor.

#8 Chew Sugarless Gum

Chewing gum may help neutralize your stomach acid because it increases your saliva production. Saliva has anti-acidic properties, which is why chewing gum may help with heartburn. Thus, if you chew gum after a meal, you are likely to swallow more frequently. Opt for sugar-free gum as it is better for your dental health. Some people also find peppermint worsens their heartburn, so consider trying different flavors, including ginger gum.

#9 Lose Weight

Being overweight and obese are risk factors for having frequent heartburn. If you already have a lap band in place or are pursuing a bariatric procedure, you are already well on your way to tackling your excess weight. However, there are also lifestyle factors that can help with weight loss alongside bariatric surgery and diet.

Make sure to exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. Stress can also contribute to weight gain, and stress even causes heartburn as well. So, curbing your stress levels can make a big difference in how you feel overall.

We know that lap band and heartburn often go hand-in-hand. However, some people do find their heartburn improves once their band is in place. If your heartburn worsens or affects your quality of life, make sure to connect with your doctor to see what option is best for you. Some doctors may loosen the band or perform a lap band revision and conversion in severe cases to prevent esophagitis. Your doctor may also explore other bariatric surgery options if you are struggling to meet your weight loss goals and control your lap band heartburn.

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Julia Rae Walker, RN, BSN, BA

Author

Julia is an experienced critical care nurse with a background in pediatric and adult patient populations. Her passion is helping patients maximize their quality of life.

Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Medical Reviewer

Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.