Heartburn? Acid Reflux? You Could be Struggling With GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) impacts one in 10 Americans about once a week, and virtually everyone has experienced it from time to time. This chronic digestive disease occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back into your esophagus, irritating its lining and leading to other symptoms including heartburn — the most common symptom of GERD.
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, but you may also experience belching, a sour taste in your mouth or a chronic sore throat, among other symptoms.
If you experience the following symptoms more than twice a week, or they interfere with your daily life, you could have GERD:
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn)
- A sour taste in your mouth or bad breath
- Chest pain
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Dry cough
- Chronic sore throat
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux) or a sudden excess of saliva
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Excess belching
GERD can also lead to inflammation of your gums and erosion of tooth enamel if the acid reaches your mouth.
When You May be More Likely to Have GERD …
GERD results when your lower esophageal sphincter (a muscle that relaxes to allow food and drinks to reach your stomach) relaxes abnormally or weakens. This lets the stomach acid flow back up into your esophagus or mouth.
In at least some of the cases, abnormal relaxations of your esophageal sphincter can occur when your stomach becomes extended from eating a lot of food. Further, about 20 percent of people with GERD have been found to have a stomach that empties abnormally slowly, which prolongs the time during which acid reflux is most likely to occur.
Though it can happen to nearly anyone, the Mayo Clinic states that the following factors are known to increase the risk:
- Hiatal hernia
- Dry mouth
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare digestive disorder that causes excessive production of acid by your stomach)
If GERD is severe and chronic, it can lead to serious complications including:
- Scar tissue in the esophagus, which can lead to difficulty swallowing
- Esophageal ulcer
- Changes in your esophagus that may increase your risk of esophageal cancer
Why the Typical Treatments for GERD May Not Always be the Best Solution
Rebalance Your Digestive System for Heartburn Relief
Your digestive process — where good health begins and ends — should move along quietly and proficiently. So if you’re experiencing heartburn or other symptoms of GERD it’s a sign that your system is out of balance. The first step to returning health to your gut should be normalizing your stomach function with:
If you think you have GERD you should see your doctor to find out for sure. Additionally, we suggest visiting a natural health care practitioner who will seek to address the underlying causes of the GERD.
Unfortunately, the typical treatment given for GERD is antacids that neutralize stomach acid or prescription medications that reduce or block stomach acid production.
However, stomach acids are critical for proper digestion, and if you don’t digest and absorb your food properly you will ultimately increase your risk for many chronic degenerative diseases.
Further, despite the temporary relief, medications designed to reduce acid may exacerbate the underlying causes of acid reflux and one of its most annoying symptoms. By neutralizing what little acid the stomach may produce, the stomach acid insufficiency is made worse. Then, in a desperate attempt to correct the problem, the stomach occasionally produces a surge of too much acid, causing the uncomfortable burning sensation.
Also, reduction of acid in your stomach reduces your primary defense mechanism for food-borne infections, thereby increasing your risk of food poisoning.
Many commercial antacids also contain toxic ingredients such as aluminum and artificial colors and sweeteners. These chemicals not only disrupt digestion, but they also alter the structure and function of stomach lining cells and cause side effects like headache, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Is There a Natural Solution for Treating GERD?
Digestive enzymes will help to restore optimal functioning of your digestive tract and help reduce digestive disturbances such as GERD.
More Natural Tips for Reducing Symptoms of GERD
Along with taking a digestive enzyme supplement and key GI supportive nutrients, the following tips may also help to reduce the frequency of heartburn and other GERD symptoms:
- Drink plenty of pure water.
- Maintain a healthy weight (extra weight puts pressure on your abdomen and can encourage acid reflux).
- Wear loose-fitting clothing (tight clothes encourage acid reflux in the same way extra weight does, by putting pressure on your abdomen).
- Use gravity to your advantage and avoid lying down for two to three hours after eating (this will help the acid stay in your stomach where it belongs). You can also try elevating the head of your bed for this purpose.
- Avoid smoking.