Nearly 15% of all adults use antacids regularly to combat acid reflux and indigestion. GERD, or acid reflux, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) (valve separating the esophagus and stomach) does not close properly, allowing acid to back up into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is not made for the strong enzymes and acids released in the stomach for the digestion of food. When this reflux occurs chronically, it leads to inflammation and thickening of the esophageal wall. The cellular changes that occur make swallowing difficult and lead to serious complications such as Barrett’s esophagus and cancer.
GERD is best dealt with by altering habits, diet and lifestyle as a first line of action. In order to get motivated to make the right changes- it is helpful to get down to the essence of what is going on in the body.
The two prominent factors in the condition of GERD are weak muscle tone of the LES, and stomach acid.
1.) Weak muscle tone of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) allows gastric contents to back up into the esophagus.
Large Meals- The stomach is like an elastic bag. When it gets full and stretched to capacity, the opening at the top is strained and can pull open.
Laying Down after Eating- Lying down after eating creates a flow of food backwards or rather up into the esophagus.
Belly Fat- Fat around the belly creates more intra -abdominal pressure, pushing the stomach and its contents up.
Medications- Medications can contribute by relaxing the LES; as is the case with sedatives, some antidepressants, anti-nausea meds, estrogen replacements, and bronchodialators. They may also directly irritate the stomach lining, as with NSAID’s, Fosamax, Iron, Potassium supplements and some antibiotics.
Poor digestion– A recent study found that heartburn and acid reflux are actually most often caused by inadequate production of stomach acids and digestive enzymes. In fact, most GERD is ultimately due to a lack of acid and not too much. When food collects in the stomach and is not digested efficiently, it becomes rancid and forms gasses, which put pressure on the sphincter and cause reflux. . A quick way to see if you are in this category is to drink water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in it before meals and see if you experience less heartburn overall. Vinegar and lemon juice both help break down fats and proteins, thereby aiding digestion.
2.) Increase in stomach acid causes burning pain and reflux.
Consuming acid producing foods- The top foods that aggravate heartburn include; citrus, tomatoes, garlic and onion, rich, fatty, spicy or fried foods, alcohol, caffeine and fruit juices.
Eating quickly- Eating too fast can wreak havoc on digestion. Salivation and chewing are two extremely important steps in the digestive process, which can be skipped over to a large extent when we eat quickly. Large boluses of food, which could have been broken down with the teeth and saliva, make the stomach work harder, mechanically and by pumping out more acids and enzymes.
Food sensitivities- When we pinpoint certain foods that are a challenge for us to digest fully and cause symptoms of discomfort and pain we refer to it as food sensitivity. Eating foods which we don’t digest well causes an increase in stomach acids to deal with it and can increase inflammation in the GI tract.
Stress- Stress releases many hormones into our bodies which inhibits proper digestion and increases inflammation in the body.If you find that you need some help managing your heartburn, by all means give us a call and set up a consult. We can help you rid yourself of acid reflux naturally!