Can having IBS affect GERD treatment options?

If you have IBS, it’s likely that you also have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Both issues affect the digestive system and could be caused by the same root problem but the reason why IBS happens is still a mystery. IBS is hard enough to manage by itself, throw another stomach issue on top of that and it feels like maybe you just shouldn’t eat anything at all!

If you haven’t heard of GERD, it’s chronic acid reflux. According to the Mayo Clinic, it happens when stomach acid regularly flows into the esophagus, irritating the cells inside. Stomach acid is able to get in there because of an issue with the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that lets food into your stomach. The main symptoms of GERD are heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and sour taste in your mouth.

People diagnosed with IBS are 4 times more likely to also have GERD, according to a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. This relationship has led researchers to believe that IBS and GERD could be connected in some way, but that’s the tricky part. No one is sure what exactly causes IBS, which makes finding the relationship between IBS and GERD that much harder.

Currently there are some known facts between the two issues, they both have to do with food moving throughout the digestive system and over/underactive digestive muscles. One slight disconnect is that GERD happens at the start of the digestive process, while IBS occurs at the end. The rest is unknown.

Treating GERD normally includes an over the counter medicine like a proton pump inhibitor, some common examples include Prilosec OTC, Lansoprazole, and Pantoprazole. However, a recent study published by the American Gastroenterology Association showed that around 54% GERD patients who were on proton pump inhibitors still had symptoms, including those with IBS.

Just because proton pump inhibitors don’t fully help those with IBS and GERD, it doesn’t mean you should give up. There are other options that can help with the symptoms like histamine-2 receptor blockers, antacids and diet changes. Talking to your doctor can help figure out what treatment works best for you.

Here is a list of foods to avoid if you have been diagnosed with GERD from Johns Hopkins Medicine:

  • Fried food

  • Fast food

  • Carbonated drinks

  • Fatty Meats

  • Cheeses

  • Tomato-based sauces

  • Citrus fruits

  • Chocolate

  • Peppermint

If you have IBS and have been experiencing repeated acid reflux, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional. Do not make any major changes to your diet or begin taking a new medicine without consulting a doctor first.