Finally Unburdened by GERD
With his GERD symptoms resolved, Ed Caballero can now enjoy his travels and all that comes with them.
Edward Caballero, 70, travels extensively, spending months at a time in the Philippines with side trips to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, Indonesia and other destinations in Southeast Asia. He loves the people, the varied cultures, and especially the exotic foods and spices.
For a man who once suffered from severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the idea of experiencing a culture through its cuisine once evoked images of sleeping upright to prevent choking, a painful burning in his chest, and the frequent taste of acid on his tongue.
For Ed, the symptoms of GERD began about 12 years ago. He managed his indigestion with antacids at first and later obtained prescriptions for stronger antacids and Nexium®, a proton-pump inhibitor. As the symptoms became more frequent and harder to manage, he developed strategies to cope: eating slowly, avoiding spicy foods, and spending many nights propped up by a stack of pillows.
Frustrated with his persistent symptoms, Ed took to the internet. “I did my research and learned that the problem may not have been too much stomach acid, rather a weak muscle in my esophagus which allowed the contents of my stomach to travel back up,” says Ed.
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a circular bundle of muscles at the base of the esophagus that opens to let food pass into the stomach and then closes tightly behind it. When the LES fails to close completely, stomach acid and partially digested food flows backward, causing a burning pain and inflammation.
Ed then consulted with his doctor where an endoscopy and a barium swallow radiograph – a chest X-ray that allowed doctors to observe Ed’s esophagus, throat, and mouth as he swallowed – confirmed his severe GERD was caused by a weak LES.
An elegant solution
One of the most advanced and least invasive procedures to treat GERD involves using a device called LINX®. The LINX device is a small ring of titanium beads about the size of a quarter, and each of the beads has a magnetic center. When the ring is wrapped around the weak LES, the magnetic attraction causes it to contract, helping the LES stay closed. The force of swallowing is strong enough to temporarily break the magnetic bond, but as soon as food passes through, the ring draws closed again and prevents reflux. Though he was aware of the LINX device, Ed’s insurance didn’t cover the procedure at the time.
“Last year, my son brought it up again after learning it was now covered by my insurance. He started looking into doctors who have experience with LINX,” says Ed, “When he found Dr. Iqbal, he told me, ‘Dad, this guy’s a rock star; you have to go to him.’ So, I did.”
The LINX procedure takes just 30 minutes and four small incisions, yet it must be performed by a surgeon with advanced training in foregut procedures, plus additional training for the LINX device. Atif Iqbal, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.S.M.B.S., medical director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained bariatric and general surgeon who specializes in digestive disorder surgeries. Ed scheduled a consultation with Dr. Iqbal and finally decided to put an end to his GERD.
“After years of exposure to refluxed gastric acid, Ed’s esophagus was severely inflamed. Had he allowed his GERD to continue, the cells lining the esophagus would have adapted by becoming more like the cells lining his stomach – a serious, precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus,” says Dr. Iqbal.
Today, Ed’s symptoms are gone, and he has the freedom to eat any food at any time, any place in the world.
Surgical Weight Loss
Certified as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence® and fully accredited in the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP), the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center is one of the most highly regarded weight loss centers in Southern California.
Q: What are the health benefits of sustained weight loss?
A: “Weight loss can reverse or prevent Type 2 diabetes and lower the chance of cancer, as well as other life-threatening conditions. Socially and psychologically, the benefits are extensive. As people lose weight, they become more active and gain self-esteem,” says Peter LePort, M.D., bariatric and general surgeon at Orange Coast Medical Center.
Q: How does surgical weight loss reverse comorbidities and Type 2 diabetes?
A: “Weight-loss surgeries can improve diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and other comorbidities. Surgically altering the gastrointestinal tract causes changes in the incretin system – a group of hormones that regulate glucose. Insulin levels often return to normal just days after surgery, before any significant weight loss,” says Michael Russo, M.D., bariatric, gastroesophageal and general surgeon at Orange Coast Medical Center.
Q: How are the joints negatively affected by excess weight?
A: “Obesity contributes to osteoarthritis – common wear-and-tear arthritis – by putting additional stress on weight-bearing joints. Every pound of excess weight adds one-and-a-half pounds of force to the knees. A sustained 10- to 15-pound weight loss in young, obese people can mean a much lower risk of osteoarthritis later in life,” says Atif Iqbal, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.S.M.B.S., medical director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.
Q: How does obesity affect cardiovascular health?
A: “Body fat leads to higher blood volume. The heart works harder, which causes harmful changes in its structure and function over the years. Also, fat tissue – particularly in the abdomen – produces toxic, inflammatory substances that damage heart muscle,” says Mir Ali, M.D., medical director of the Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.
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