Digestion | December 5, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Acid reflux, heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux are painful digestive conditions which are closely related to one another and cause similar symptoms; however, they usually develop in stages.
A circular muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter lies between the oesophagus and the stomach. This muscle is in charge of closing the oesophagus after food passes to the stomach. If this muscle is weak or doesn’t close properly, the acid from the stomach can move backward into the oesophagus. This is known as acid reflux and can result in heartburn.
Heartburn is a mild to severe pain that is felt in the chest and most often occurs after eating a meal and is experienced as a burning or tightening sensation. Heartburn occurs only in the digestive system, specifically, it occurs in the oesophagus. It can sometimes be mistaken for heart attack pain; however, the pain does not originate from the heart. The lining of the oesophagus is more delicate than the lining of the stomach. Therefore, acid in the oesophagus causes a burning sensation in the chest. This sensation is known as heartburn.
Heartburn may be improved by avoiding spicy or acidic foods, eating fewer fatty foods, losing weight and quitting smoking
If acid reflux and heartburn are chronic they may actually be indicative of a more severe problem known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise termed ‘GERD’.
GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux. It’s diagnosed when acid reflux occurs more than twice a week or causes swelling in the oesophagus.
Pain from GERD may not be relieved with antacids or other over-the-counter medication.
Some of the symptoms of GERD include, heartburn, feeling like stomach contents have come back up the throat or mouth (regurgitation), chest pain, dry cough, asthma and trouble swallowing.
As with heartburn, GERD can be improved by changes to the diet, weight loss and quitting smoking. Medications for GERD generally try to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. They may not be effective for all patients. Some people need surgery to help strengthen the LES.
There are three different types of medication that is used in the treatment of acid reflux symptoms or those caused by GERD. If any of these medications don’t work then more serious intervention such as surgery may be the last option for sufferers. This involves tightening the lower oesophageal sphincter which may or may not solve the problem.
The main issue with these medications is that they don’t address the real cause of the problem and provide only temporary relief. When antacids make the stomach less acidic, more acid is automatically produced to bring the stomach back to its intended pH level. The body will continue this process every time a medicinal measure is taken to reduce acidity.
Hypochlorhydria, the clinical term for low stomach acid, is an under-researched and dangerous condition. Every time medication is used to lower stomach acid it is actually further contributing to the problem. Prolonged hypochlorhydria leads to chronic atrophic gastritis and is associated with side effects including vitamin B-12 deficiency, autoimmune conditions, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue and many other disorders.
Almost every research study that has been conducted on GERD and acid reflux suggests that diet is a contributing factor.
First and foremost, the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD must be treated by changes in the diet in order to avoid long-term complications and restore healthy digestive function.
Often the body is trying to alert a sufferer to a problem in the digestive tract and shouldn’t be ignored or symptoms taken away with medication.
A great starting point is to reduce grains (especially when refined) and sugar consumption. Eating high-quality protein and reducing intake of refined vegetable oils is also essential. All of these steps will help to protect the GI tract, balance hormonal function and help prevent many serious chronic diseases associated with poor digestive health.
Foods that can help improve acid reflux include fresh organic vegetables (especially leafy greens, squash, artichoke, asparagus and cucumbers); free-range chicken and grass-fed beef; probiotic foods like yogurt; bone broth; and healthy fats like coconut or olive oil.
Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, parsley, ginger and fennel are also invaluable for acid reflux.
In addition to eating a healthy diet of foods that help to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD, some more improvements can occur when taking supplements that help to restore long-term gastro-intestinal health.
Digestive enzymes. Recommended dosage is one to two capsules of a high-quality digestive enzyme at the start of each meal. Digestive enzymes help foods fully digest and nutrients be absorbed properly.
Probiotics. Recommended dosage is 25–50 billion units of high-quality probiotics daily. Adding healthy bacteria helps balance the digestive tract and crowd out bad bacteria that can lead to indigestion, leaky gut and poor absorption of nutrients.
Hydro chloric acid (HCL) with Pepsin. Recommended dosage is one 650 milligram tablet prior to each meal.
Magnesium. Recommend dosage is 400 milligrams of a high-quality magnesium supplement twice per day.
Chamomile, papaya or ginger herbal tea prior to bed can be used. Chamomile tea helps reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, supporting healthy functioning. Boiling a piece of fresh ginger in water for 10 minutes prior to drinking aids digestion and reduces inflammation in the digestive tract and oesophagus. In addition, papain, an enzyme in papaya, aids in digestion by breaking down proteins.
Exercise and manage stress. A sedentary lifestyle and stress worsens symptoms of acid reflux and overall disrupts digestion. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, art or music therapy can help to effectively manage stress.
Eat smaller meals to allow foods to properly digest, as large meals and overeating put extra pressure on the oesophageal sphincter.
Chew foods more thoroughly.
The majority of people don’t chew their food enough. This is so important as digestion starts in the mouth.
Give up smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Don’t consume food three hours prior to bed. This ensures the stomach has enough time to digest the foods from the last meal. A herbal tea at this time would be ideal.