Acid Reflux and GERD

Acid Reflux or Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known or associated with heartburn and indigestion, happens when acid or bile from the stomach leaks back up through the esophagus, which will irritate and damage the delicate lining of the esophagus.

When stomach acid leaks back up into the esophagus, it is called acid reflux. Normally the sphincter, a muscle at the join between the esophagus and stomach, tightens up to stop acid, bile and food coming back up out of the stomach. Acid reflux happens when the sphincter does not work very well, or when the stomach is very full (for example, after a large meal).

The esophagus can cope with a small amount of stomach acid or bile, however, if acid reflux is frequent it can damage the sensitive lining of the esophagus. This is when simple heartburn becomes GERD. If the damage to your esophagus leads to inflammation (soreness and swelling), this is called esophagitis. Further, when left untreated has the potential to develop into esophageal cancer!

Symptoms of Acid Reflux (GERD)

The main symptom of GERD in adults is frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion, however it has nothing to do with the heart.  As studies have shown that patients whose symptoms occur at night reported levels of severity that were similar to those reported in angina and congestive heart failure.  This is most likely due to the fact that heartburn is usually felt as a burning pain behind your breast-bone (in front of the chest, over the heart) and happens when stomach acid damages the inside of your esophagus.

Heartburn is most likely to occur in connection with the following activities:

  • After a heavy meal
  • Bending over
  • Lifting
  • Lying down on your back
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Pregnant

Other symptoms of GERD may include:

  • An acidic taste in mouth
  • Burning pain in your throat
  • Bloating and belching
  • Stomach pains
  • Burning pain n your throat and esophagus when you swallow hot drinks
  • Regurgitating food
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Vomiting Blood

Causes of Acid Reflux (GERD):

1.Insufficient Acid to Digest the food you eat

The biggest cause of Acid Reflux is insufficient acid. This will come as a major surprise to most of you reading this, but it is a fact. As we get older we produce less hydrochloric acid that is essential to digest the food we eat. When we have insufficient acid the undigested food begins to ferment, in fact rot whilst still in our stomach. This fermenting soup causes us to feel bloated, full of gas that then causes pain and inflammation thus causing a great deal of discomfort. When excess gas has built up it has to be released and when it does you experience a mini explosion that releases the bile upwards and into your esophagus. build up This is contrary to the common belief that is expressed in the media and by many Doctors.

2. Poor sphincter control

There is a sphincter (muscle) at the join between your stomach and the esophagus. It relaxes to let food into your stomach but then tightens to stop stomach acid or bile coming out and back up into your esophagus. In some people, the sphincter does as intended, and this causes acid reflux.

Having a hiatus hernia can also cause poor sphincter control. In this type of hernia, part of the stomach pokes through your diaphragm, the main breathing muscle under the lungs. The muscles in your diaphragm are then stretched and don’t allow the sphincter to close, so acid or bile can escape from your stomach back up into the esophagus.

3. Smoking relaxes the sphincter muscles, so makes acid reflux more likely. Some people find that particular foods, such as fatty foods, chocolate, or oranges, relax the sphincter, while others such as coffee and tomatoes directly irritate the Esophagus.

4. Particular medicines can make GERD worse by relaxing the sphincter,for example, diazepam. Others may directly irritate the esophagus, for example, potassium supplements.

5. Pressure on the stomach

Acid reflux can also happen when there is a lot of pressure on your stomach forcing the stomach contents out and back up into the esophagus. This might happen after a very large meal, during pregnancy, if you are constipated, or when you wear tight-waisted clothes or bend forward.

What Can You Do If  You Have Acid Reflux?

As with all problems, the first step is to identify the cause. Remedial measures that can be taken are as follows:

  1. Eat less and chew more. The mixing of digestive enzymes with your food in the mouth kick starts the digestion process, minimizing the chance for fermentation in the stomach and facilitating the speedy passage of food through the stomach.
  2. Choose foods that are in their natural state, or whole foods. Include plenty of vegetables, seasonal fruit and unrefined grains.
  3. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars, caffeine, chocolates and spicy foods.
  4. Avoid big rich meals, especially food fried in oils and fats.
  5. Don’t eat when angry or upset, nor when rushed and can’t sit down.
  6. It helps not to lie down immediately after eating, this allows gravity to keep the stomach contents below the opening of the lower esophagus.
  7. Take a short and gentle stroll after a meal.
  8. Avoid drinking beverages prior to, and during meals, as this will dilute enzymes, however, some may find that taking small sips of water throughout a meal can help in buffering stomach acid, helping to reduce the discomfort of acid reflux.  This of course may not help some people, the best thing to do is try it for yourself.
  9. Avoid cigarette smoking and too much alcohol.
  10. Eating organic sauerkraut or taking 2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar prior to any meal will help in supplying additional essential enzymes necessary for the proper breakdown of foods.

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