LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – One in five adults experience heartburn or acid reflux on a weekly basis. Coupled with the culture’s spicy food, doctors are seeing an increase here in South Louisiana.

One gastroenterologist in Acadiana is saying heartburn and reflux could be symptoms of a much larger issue.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder where stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, causing damage, often showing itself through heartburn and acid reflux.

“I thought it was minimal maybe to three times a week I was able to control it with over-the-counter medications so I didn’t really think of it as a big deal,” Tasha Cieslak said, acid reflux patient.

Local gastroenterologist Dr. Jacob Karr, with the Gastroenterology Clinic of Acadiana, said medications help heartburn and reflux, but they aren’t always the answer.

“The problem is not acid, the problem is that valve so you really just masking the symptoms with those medications,” Dr. Karr said.

To ease symptoms, Dr. Karr recommends lifestyle changes, such as smaller portions or drinking more water.

For patient Tasha Cieslak, she wanted to get off her medication. That’s when doctors found something else.

“I was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus. I was extremely shocked that’s esophagus is a precancerous cells at the bottom of the esophagus and it has to be treated,” Cieslak said.

Cieslak underwent Stretta Therapy. It’s for anyone with GERD. A device goes down through the mouth to deliver low levels of radio frequency energy.

“There’s a balloon that you can see you down there at the bottom and so this balloon inflates at that lower south just think about that valve,” Dr. Karr said.

The energy then thickens the weakened muscle between the stomach and esophagus.

“It causes that muscle to build up and get stronger and restores it as a one-way valve instead of a two way valve,” Dr. Karr said.

Cieslak is now back to normal. No reflux. No medications. She said she’s thankful she got her symptoms checked early.

“I feel fine now. I don’t have to take any medication. I’m not experiencing any symptoms. I was very satisfied that I had it done,” Cieslak said.

Last year the Gastroenterology Clinic of Acadiana performed the highest number of Stretta procedures in the country.