In the know: Gastroesophageal Reflux

a column by Karen Morrissette

Most people experience the symptoms of heartburn at some point in their lives. Common symptoms are burning pain in the chest that may be worse after eating, at night, or when bending over, as well as a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth. For many, it is worse with certain types of foods. These may include spicy foods or acidic ones like citrus fruit or tomatoes, in addition to caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Some individuals are especially sensitive and avoidance of triggers is key in improving symptoms. Decreasing alcohol and caffeine intake and altering the diet can make a huge difference.

Heartburn, medically known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can also be caused by conditions like hiatal hernia, where the stomach gets squeezed by the diaphragm forcing contents upward, or a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach contents to regurgitate back into the esophagus. There is acid in the stomach that helps digest food. When that acid comes back up into the esophagus, it is very irritating and can cause pain, esophageal spasm, and damage to the esophageal wall that can lead to scarring, strictures, or even esophageal cancer. Cough can be a symptom of GERD and there are even those that have GERD without any symptoms at all. There is a bacteria called H. pylori that can infect the gastrointestinal tract and cause problems, one of which may be GERD. It has also been linked to stomach ulcers. H. pylori often responds to a specific combination of antibiotics that must be prescribed by a medical provider.

In addition to avoiding triggers, there are other things patients with GERD can do to reduce their symptoms. Avoidance of eating within 3 hours of bedtime, assuring that food is chewed thoroughly so it is easier to digest, and elevating the head of the bed 6-8 inches with bricks or pieces of wood can all be helpful. Overeating at meals, obesity, and smoking also make GERD more likely to occur. Medications can be useful to treat symptoms when they occur (antacids) and even prevent reflux in those who have it frequently (H2 antagonists such as Famotidine or proton pump blockers such as Omeprazole or Prilosec). These, like any other medication, are not without side effects, so any long term use should be discussed with a medical provider.

A visit to the doctor is warranted if GERD occurs more than twice weekly or persists despite over-the-counter medications, as well as if there is difficulty swallowing, persistent nausea and vomiting, or unexpected weight loss. Further work up may involve special x-rays to look at the esophagus during swallowing or an endoscopy, which involves putting a small lighted scope down into the esophagus while the patient is sedated. It is very important to evaluate persistent problems further because permanent damage to the esophagus and esophageal cancers can be difficult to treat. Smokers are also at higher risk for esophageal cancers. Early diagnosis is key for improved outcomes.

We would like to thank everyone who thought of us in our time of sorrow. The food, flowers, cards, phone calls, hugs and words of how much jim meant to all of you were greatly appreciated.

 To the people who supported us at the celebration of life we will always cherish the love and wonderful memories that you shared with us on that day. Friends and family are so very precious at a time like this when we have to say good-bye to our husband, dad and papa.

 Thank you to Jon Dunham, Kenny, Jule and the people at the V.F.W who worked so hard to make this day special. 


– Anita, Terri, Kevin, Darren & Families

Alphaeus Lee Mease

Keeper Sharkey and Gabriel Mease welcomed baby boy Alphaeus Lee Mease on November 13, at 11:56 pm.  Alphaeus weighed eight pounds, 8.2 ounces and was 21 inches long at time of birth. He was delivered by Dr. Brian Bell, of Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby, Mont.


Photo  by Joseph D. Jameson Photography.

CPMC’s Laboratory updates equipment

Nearly 20 million people in the United States get a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), or Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) each year. These infections affect women and men of all backgrounds and economic levels, but over half of all new infections are among the young people 15-24 years old.

The Laboratory at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center has added the “binx io” to its arsenal of equipment and technology. The new equipment allows a diagnosis in 30 minutes or less, down from 48-72 hours, for the two leading STI’s, Chlamydia Trachomatis and Neisseria Gonorrhea. As with all DNA/PCR testing instruments, this analyzer offers 99.9% accuracy in detection and allows for a faster and more reliable diagnosis.

Fortunately, these infections can be cured or treated with medication. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the consequences can include infertility, pregnancy complications, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infection to other parts of the body.

Roger Riddle, CPMC Laboratory Manager, states “This instrument is a breakthrough in rapidly and accurately treating STI/STD’s. The DNA Technology allows our providers to use scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine to treat a horrible disease in an efficient and timely manner. Also, by having clinically proven results, our providers can prescribe antibiotics in an efficient and proper protocol.” He adds, “This instrument is a great tool for all of the staff at cabinet Peaks to help provide modern, cutting edge care using new technology to all of the folks in southern Lincoln County. All off the staff at YOUR hospital and YOUR Laboratory are so excited to be able to bring the very best medicine possible to you, our patients.”

For more information on the CPMC Laboratory or this new technology, call 283-7090.

Submitted by  Paula Collins,

Cabinet Peaks Medical Center