Acid Reflux, what is it?
Acid reflux, or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) as it is known, is a disorder of the digestive system affecting the ring of muscle between your Esophagus and stomach. This ring area is called the Esophageal Sphincter or LES. You may also get heartburn or acid indigestion if you have this condition.
Doctors think some people get acid reflux because of the condition Hiatal Hernia. In most cases, the severity can be improved through a change in lifestyle, such as a healthy diet and exercise routine. Others may need medication but rarely does it require surgery
Causes of Acid Reflux
The stomach and Esophagus are referred to as Gastroesophageal. Reflux means to backflow or return. Gastroesophageal Reflux means the contents of your stomach is baked up into your Esophagus.
In normal digestion, the LES opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to stop the stomach juices from back flowing into the Eshophagus. Gastro Reflux occurs when the LES is weak, allowing the stomach’s contents to flow back up.
Did you know that more than 15 million adults suffer from heartburn every day? Recent studies show that GERD affects more infants and children than doctors thought. Acid reflux can cause discomfort from coughing to repeatedly to vomiting and even breathing issues.
Some professionals believe that a Hiatal Hernia weakens the LES and increases your chance of Reflux. A Hiatal Hernia is when the top of the stomach moves up into the chest through a tiny opening in the diaphragm-the muscle separating the abdomen from the chest. Many with this condition will not have any issues with Reflux or heartburn but may still have their stomach contents easily back up.
Straining, coughing, physical exertion or vomiting can raise the stomach pressure and lead to a Hiatal Hernia. Although this condition affects predominantly middle-aged people, Hernias affect people of all ages. May healthy people over the age of 50 have a small one. Most require no treatment, but if the Hernia is at risk of strangulation or twists, you may require surgery.
Below are other factors that increase your risk of GERD:
- Being overweight/obese
- Gastroparesis (delayed emptying of the stomach contents)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma or Lupus (Diseases of the connective tissues)
- Diet high in processed fatty foods
- Large meals
- Medications including aspirin
The most common symptom is heartburn which is acid indigestion. This normally feels like burning chest pain that starts behind the breastbone and travels towards the neck. It is common for people to say that it feels as though their food is coming back up their necks and into the mouth, leaving a bitter acid taste.
The pressure and burning can last up to two hours and is often worse after eating, lying down or bending over. Most find taking an antacid and remaining upright helps clear the acid relieving the pain.
Often people mistake heartburn with heart disease or attack, but they are very different. Heart disease pain may become exasperated with exercise whilst resting may relieve. Heartburn will not get better with exercise during a flare, but lifestyle changes will decrease its frequency over time. If you can’t tell the difference, it is best to seek medical support with any chest pain.
You may also experience:
- Trouble regulating your breathing
- Bad/odorous breath
- Wearing of enamel
- A lump in the throat
- Lingering Cough
- Sleep problems
Treatments for GERD
Reflux treatments aim to cut down and lessen the damage to the lining of the Esophagus. Your doctor may prescribe over the counter or prescription medications such as antacids to ease symptoms.
Changes to your diet and lifestyle can help reduce symptoms;
- Avoid foods and drinks that trigger fatty foods, junk food, alcohol, caffeine and chocolate.
- Eat smaller servings to avoid overwhelming the stomach.
- Leaving 3-4 hours between eating and going to bed
- Eating slower; take your time to enjoy your food
- Chewing your food thoroughly.
- Stop smoking-very important in reducing GERD symptoms
- Elevate your head when sitting or lying down
- Stay a healthy weight
- Wear clothes that don’t squeeze the waist
Therapies that are non-invasive and complement both the body and traditional medicine;
- Allergy and digestive health testing