What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux disease, also known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs due to the coexistence of two medical conditions. The first acid reflux disease contributing condition is a retrograde flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. However, the reflux itself does not necessarily lead to gastro-esophageal reflux disease symptoms or histologic changes, and can occur among healthy individuals as well. In this case, the process is referred to as “physiologic gastroesophageal reflux”.
The second acid reflux disease predisposing condition is a lower esophageal sphincter (LES) malfunction. The LES is a 3-cm to 4-cm ring of muscle, which is two to three times thicker than the proximal esophagus and acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach. In the case of acid reflux disease, the LES does not close perfectly and stomach contents splashes up into the esophagus. When pathologic symptoms follow this process, the whole condition is called acid reflux disease.
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease is usually experienced as a persistent (at least twice a week) heartburn. Heartburn is the burning sensation in the chest or throat, caused by refluxed stomach contents touching the lining of the esophagus. Since healthy individuals may also experience light reflux – occasional heartburn is common as well, and doesn’t necessarily serve as an evidence of GERD.
Some GERD sufferers may also experience pain in the chest, cough, morning hoarseness, voice changes, difficulty swallowing (especially lumpy foods), chronic earache, burning chest pains, nausea or sinusitis. Some patients report a sensation that reminds food stuck, choking or tightness in the throat. This happens due to continuous stomach contents acid flow that comes into contact with the esophagus and causes inflammation of the esophagus resulting in scars from tissue damage.
Untreated acid reflux disease can lead to serious health complications. Those include stricture formation, bleeding, ulcers and esophageal spasms. When the stomach acid reaches the upper esophagus and trachea, the process can result in a variety of severe conditions, such as asthma, sinusitis and pneumonia. Finally, some people may develop Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that manifest in an abnormal shape and color of cells in the esophageal lining. This condition is a precursor to esophageal cancer, especially in adults over 60 years old.
The treatment of gastro-esophageal reflux disease takes three forms: surgery, medical therapy and holistic therapy, including dietary and lifestyle changes and the intake of specific herbal supplements. An undergoing surgery should be considered very carefully, since it can compound some underlying conditions, such as stricture and motility disorders. Medical treatment of GERD includes PPIs and H2 blockers. While acid reflux can be treated by taking prescription medications or acid blockers such as the above, bear in mind that the results may be temporary and that some conventional medications can cause serious side effects.
From a holistic point of view, acid reflux disease is considered a warning sign of a major internal imbalance that needs to be properly addressed. Therefore, alternative remedies, such as homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies, lifestyle changes as part of a complete holistic regimen are strongly recommended for acid reflux sufferers.
What Are The Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
It is widely agreed among physicians and medical paraprofessionals, that initial diagnosis, mostly by using a typical acid reflux symptoms questionnaire, is necessary to ensure the most effective and quick treatment for this condition. Approx 70% of the acid reflux diagnostics that are based on the presence of typical symptoms are accurate. Since acid reflux, also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), can cause patients a great deal of discomfort and result in severe complications, it is highly important to know how to identify its symptoms in order to quickly diagnose and treat it.
The most common symptom of GERD is persistent heartburn. Heartburn is experienced as an unpleasant and painful burning sensation in the esophageal area. Other typical symptoms are as follows:
1. Gastric regurgitation, which means an unrestricted reversed flow of gastric or esophageal contents into the throat. This gastric fluid can cause respiratory complications under certain conditions.
2. Odynophagia, which means pain when swallowing.
3. Dysphagia, which means difficulty swallowing, or the feeling of food stuck in the throat.
In addition to the above, about 50% of all gastroesophageal reflux disease sufferers report the co-occurrence of sinonasal symptoms (i. e. symptoms pertaining to the nose and sinuses).
Abnormal GERD symptoms include chronic wheezing and coughing (sometimes referred to as acid reflux related asthma, and are caused by the aspiration of gastric contents into the lungs area), spasmodic noncardiac chest pain and damage to the lungs, often followed by respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and asthma. Intense chest pain may closely resemble that of myocardial infarction that it has often been incorrectly interpreted as a heart attack. However, unlike the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, cardiovascular chest pain is usually aggravated during physical exercise.
Finally, acid reflux can also harm the vocal cords (hoarseness, laryngitis, cancer), ears (otitis media), and teeth (enamel decay). Being able to identify those symptoms as GERD related is of great importance to your health and general well being and for the prevention of potential complications. Acid reflux symptoms might serve as evidence to severe overall internal imbalance. In addition to that, neglected gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to significant physical discomfort and sometimes can results in chronic and even dangerous health conditions, such as esophageal cancer and pneumonia.
Causes of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux disease, also known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs due to the coexistence of several medical and lifestyle conditions. Physiological factors that trigger GERD include lower esophageal sphincter (LES) hypotonia (the gradual weakening of the LES), along with retrograde flow of stomach contents into the esophagus, and the level of sensitivity of the esophageal mucus to the reflux content.
The food that you swallow travels down your throat and is pushed by contractions of the muscular esophagus. In the area where the esophagus joins the stomach a valve-like mechanism, known as lower esophageal sphincter (LES), is located. The closure of this muscle prevents stomach acid from backing up, or refluxing, into the esophagus.
LES malfunction is the first factor that causes and contributes to gastro-esophageal reflux disease. In a healthy individual, the LES relaxes only when food passes from the esophagus into the stomach. After the food passes into the stomach, the valve shuts off, keeping the stomach content and acid inside. However, when the LES is weak and doesn’t close properly, acid can splash up into your throat causing painful burning sensation, called heartburn.
There are several factors/conditions, which can prevent the LES from being closed properly. These factors/conditions include genetic weakness, obesity and excessive fat ingestion. In addition to that, all muscles in the human body tend to sag as part of the aging process, including the LES.
The second factor, or rather the group of factors that causes gastro-esophageal reflux disease, are behavioral and lifestyle related. As mentioned above, a weakened LES is one of the direct physiological causes of acid reflux disease. Various food ingredients, drugs and nervous system processes can weaken this muscle, thus contributing to GERD. Foods that may contribute to acid reflux include orange juice, lemons and lemonade, grapefruit juice, tomatoes and tomato juice, French fries, sour cream, coffee and tea.
Acid reflux can also be the result of fungal yeast infection that builds up in the colon. When Candida albicans turn from yeast to fungi, they depress the immune system and produce more than 79 distinct toxins that may be responsible for many of the symptoms that Candida sufferers have including heartburn.
When Candida gets out of control, it breaks through the intestinal walls and travels throughout the body. It can attach itself to the genital areas, the mouth and the esophagus among many other parts of the body. When Candida goes out of control, it begins to ferment and reflux the contents of the stomach upward through the small intestines, through the stomach and then through the esophagus, causing infection, burning and damage to the esophagus.
Acid Reflux – Foods to Avoid
What acid reflux food should I avoid? This is a question most gastroesophageal reflux disease sufferers struggle upon. Promoting healthy nutrition that is based on avoiding certain foods while increasing the intake of others has the potential to confer significant long-term health benefits among acid reflux sufferers. Lifestyle and dietary alterations are considered to be an integral and inseparable part of any long-term holistic GERD treatment.
The foods we consume play an important role when it comes to keeping our body’s delicate natural inner balance. Since certain foods and dietary habits have been found to directly and indirectly promote the aggravation of acid reflux, avoiding those foods and adopting specific dietary habits for optimal digestion while suffering from acid reflux could have a tremendously positive effect on your existing medical condition. The following are examples of these types of foods:
1. Coffee and other caffeine containing beverages lead to increased acidity, so avoid large amounts of coffee. Try to limit your daily coffee consumption to two cups or less. It possible, split your coffee cup into two half cups, and reduce coffee drinking before the bedtime.
2. Alcohol can irritate the stomach and relax the LES muscle, leading to increased acidity and reflux.
3. High-fat foods are among the biggest culprits behind GERD symptoms. They take longer to digest and not easily eliminated out of body, thus increasing the chances acid will splash up into your esophagus. The only exceptions are omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil, which are in fact powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
4. Chocolate contains a great deal of caffeine and fat. This may increase acidity and worsen digestion and hence should be avoided. If you are a devoted chocolate enthusiast, go for dark, organic varieties, and eat no more then two to three tiny squares two to three times per week.
5. Milk and milk-based products that contain a big proportion of calcium should also be avoided before bedtime.
6. Peppermint, spearmint and other mints can worsen acid reflux symptoms. Avoid foods that contain strong mints, including mint-based herbal teas.
7. Acidic foods (such as oranges and tomatoes) and cruciferous vegetables (onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts) promote the opening of the esophageal sphincter, thus increasing acid reflux.
So what acid reflux food should you avoid? With these dietary changes and a healthy motivation to alter your lifestyle, you can be on your way to overcoming gastroesophageal reflux disease and improving the quality of your life and well-being. Whatever your medical condition is, when you finally decide to improve your quality of life, you can literally choose to cure GERD and prevent its recurrence, by adopting the holistic approach. You will have the power to make it happen
These articles are based on the book, “Heartburn No More” by Jeff Martin. Jeff is an author, researcher, nutritionist and health consultant who dedicated his life to creating the ultimate acid reflux solution guaranteed to permanently reverse the root cause of heartburn and acid reflux and naturally and dramatically improve the overall quality of your life, without the use of prescription medication and without any surgical procedures. Learn more by visiting his website:
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