What Is Acid Reflux Disease?
The lower esophageal sphincter is a valve that is located at the entrance of the stomach. Typically, the valve closes when the food enters the stomach. When the valve does not close after the food passes through it, or when it opens too often, the acid that is produced in the stomach moves up into the esophagus through the valve.
The movement of the acid up into the esophagus produces symptoms such as a burning sensation in the chest also known as heartburn. If the symptoms occur more than twice a week, the condition is referred to acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
There has been a false claim by most individuals that consuming foods high in acid and synthesizing too much acid in the stomach is the primary cause of acid reflux. According to experts, low acid content in the stomach and poor digestion are the primary causes of acid reflux. Dietary changes alone cannot cure the disease. Individuals can find significant relief by sticking to healthy lifestyles.
Statistics show that about 10 percent of adults present with acid reflux disease symptoms on a daily basis. Research has also demonstrated that 30 percent if adults living in Western countries experience acid reflux disease symptoms on a weekly basis.
Research on treatment of acid reflux is focusing on how lifestyle modifications can be used to alleviate the symptoms associated with acid reflux disease. Such modifications may include dietary changes, alternative medicine such as acupuncture, yoga, and weight loss.
Causes Of Acid Reflux Disease
As already mentioned, acid reflux is not caused by too much acid in the stomach. On the contrary, studies have shown that acid reflux is caused by a small production of acid in the stomach. Symptoms of acid reflux arise when the acidic contents of the stomach move up into the esophagus.
The esophagus is a tube connecting the stomach to the throat. The acid enters the esophagus as a result of a defect on the lower esophageal sphincter. There are several reasons as to why the lower esophageal sphincter may become leaky. The gastric juices end up leaking to the esophageal because the valve does not close properly. As a result of low acidic content in the stomach, the process of digestion is altered leading to the unpleasant symptoms.
Here are some common causes and risk factors associated with acid reflux disease:
High Levels Of Inflammation
According to studies, inflammation is one of the common causes of acid reflux. Inflammation is linked to the development of gastroesophageal reflux diseases because it leads to the damage and dysfunction of the esophagus.
Studies have revealed that pregnancy is also a risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux disease. During pregnancy, the developing fetus exerts pressure at the esophageal valve causing the stomach contents to leak into the esophagus. The symptoms can be alleviated by raising the head during sleep, consuming smaller meals on a regular basis, or drinking herbal tea.
Cigarettes can impair normal muscle reflexes. Smoking cigarettes also leads to increased production of acid in the stomach. Anyone suffering from gastroesophageal acid reflux is advised to avoid smoking cigarettes.
The use of certain medications such as muscle relaxants and ibuprofen can cause acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Other drugs that should be avoided by individuals suffering from acid reflux disease include some anti-hypertensive drugs and aspirin. It is important to read the warning labels and discuss alternative medications with the physician or the pharmacist.
A Hiatal Hernia
Hernias present with the unpleasant symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. The diaphragm separates the stomach from the chest cavity. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm. As a result, the acidic contents of the stomach escapes into the esophagus causing the unpleasant symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The older population is at a higher risk of developing acid reflux disease than the younger generation. Statistics indicate that more than 50 percent of the American population above 50 years old lack the required amount of acid needed to digest food in the gut. Acid reflux is a side effect of aging. However, the problem is common with some of the elderly more than others.
Consuming fat meals as well as eating snacks at bedtime is commonly associated with the development of acid reflux disease. A huge content of food in the stomach exerts excessive pressure on the diaphragm forcing the acidic contents of the stomach to travel upward.
Excessive Exercise Activities
Performing heavy exercises with little rest can cause the annoying symptoms associated with acid reflux disease. Overtraining puts excessive pressure on the abdominal cavity causing the stomach contents to leak.
Low magnesium levels in the body is linked to the development of acid reflux disease. High magnesium levels are needed for proper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.
Symptoms Associated With Acid Reflux Disease
When the stomach contents repeatedly travel up the esophagus, it causes a variety of unpleasant symptoms. The symptoms presenting with acid reflux disease depend on the organs affected by the gastric acid. Patients diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease present with different symptoms depending on the affected organ.
The symptoms range from mild to severe. The symptoms are common when an individual lies down or bends over. Symptoms get worse after a heavy or spicy meal. Acid reflux is experienced during any time of the day.
However, the symptoms are more common at night. Lying down makes it easy for the stomach contents to move up into the esophagus.
The most common symptom is heartburn. The stomach is protected from the corrosive effects of the gastric acid by a protective barrier.
A painful burning sensation, known as heartburn will occur when the lower esophageal sphincter does not prevent the gastric acid from leaking into the esophagus. Heartburn can range from being uncomfortable to being painful.
Another common symptom is sour taste which arises when the stomach contents travel up to the back of the mouth or the throat. The patient may present with a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. A burning sensation may also arise in the mouth or throat.
Some patients diagnosed with acid reflux disease may present with regurgitation. It occurs when the stomach contents move up the throat rather than down. Some people may experience nausea and vomiting.
However, adult patients rarely vomit. Persistent regurgitation is common in infants and children diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Regurgitation in infants below eighteen months old is normal and perfectly natural. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse suggests that about half of all infants present with reflux during the first three months of life.
Patients may also present with a burning feeling known as dyspepsia that occurs in the upper middle part of the stomach. Heartburn can also present as a symptom of dyspepsia. People diagnosed with dyspepsia may feel bloated and nauseated. They also present with stomach upsets and a feeling of discomfort. These symptoms may signify the presence of another stomach disorder known as peptic ulcer disease.
Difficulty in swallowing, also known as dysphagia is another common symptom of acid reflux disease. The problem affects one is 25 adults annually. Patients affected experience difficulty in swallowing. Besides acid reflux disease, dysphagia may also result from other diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
Another common symptom of acid reflux disease is a sore throat. Common symptoms include hoarse voice and the sensation of a lump in the throat.
A dry cough is another common symptom of acid reflux disease in children and adults. Adults may also complain of having a sensation of a lump in the throat. They may have the urge to continually cough or clear the throat.
Acid reflux exacerbates asthmatic symptoms. Asthmatic conditions are common in children and adults with acid reflux disease. The irritation caused by the acid reflux on the airways may lead to symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.
Emergency acid reflux symptoms include severe chest pain, heartburn that seems worse than normal, and a squeezing sensation in the chest. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, 66 percent of patients’ visits are due to non-cardiac related chest pain. It is advisable to seek urgent medical treatment immediately if you experience any of the emergency symptoms.
Problems Associated With Conventional Treatment For Acid Reflux Disease
The most commonly used medications for acid reflux disease include over-the-counter drugs and some prescription medications. The drugs are used to alleviate symptoms when they have worsened. In other cases, the medications are administered to prevent the symptoms from occurring.
The three classes of drugs used in the management of acid reflux disease include antacids, histamine type2 receptor antagonists, and proton pump inhibitors. However, the use of these drugs results in side effects such as irritable bowel syndrome, anemia, indigestion, and fatigue.
Long-term use of the proton pump inhibitors and the antacid medications may cause Clostridium difficile infections. Patients may experience serious problems such as diarrhea, bleeding ulcers, and inflamed intestines. Individuals who are at a high risk of experiencing side effects associated the proton pump inhibitors include elderly and patients with chronic health conditions.
Patients taking broad spectrum antibiotics are also at the greatest risk of experiencing side effects from the use of proton pump inhibitors. The Food and Drug Administration advises patients using these drugs to immediately seek medical advice when they develop symptoms such as persistent diarrhea.
The Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet
Most studies on acid reflux disease have revealed that poor dieting is the major contributing factor to acid reflux disease. Individuals on a regular diet consisting of processed foods are at a high risk of developing acid reflux disease.
It is important to select organic foods that are free of genetically modified organisms as a way of preventing the development of acid reflux disease. Other significant dietary changes include a high intake of food high in fiber, consuming probiotics to promote healthy bacteria in the gut, and reducing the consumption of grains.
Foods That May Help With Acid Reflux Disease
The following foods can help improve the symptoms of acid reflux disease.
Kefir And Yogurt
A high intake of yogurt helps ensure a healthy growth of the friendly bacteria found in the digestive tract. It also promotes healthy digestion as well as soothing of the gastrointestinal tract. The yogurt should contain live and active organisms.
Coconut water is rich in minerals and electrolytes such as potassium that help to keep the body hydrated. The coconut water should be sipped throughout the day, and a glass should be taken before bedtime for maximum effects. The coconut water can be used to make kefir which promotes healthy probiotics in the digestive tract.
The bone broth that is produced from grass-fed beef can help in the management of acid reflux disease. The beef is slow-cooked, and the essential compounds such as glutamine, glycine, and collagen are extracted.
Apple And Cider Vinegar
The consumption of apple and cider vinegar helps alleviate the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disorder. One tablespoon of raw cider vinegar should be mixed with water and taken five minutes before eating food.
Coconut oil is high in healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory effects. One tablespoon of coconut oil daily helps alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux disease. The oil can be spread on bread or added to some foods. Coconut oil is rich in several chemical components such as lauric acid which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Other foods that can help heal acid reflux symptoms include green leafy vegetables, asparagus, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Foods such as Kombucha are rich in healthy bacteria and probiotics which are important. Fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut can also help the healing process of the acid reflux disease.
Raw cow's milk, cheese, honey, almonds, and wild-caught tuna and salmon are also helpful to individuals diagnosed with acid reflux disease.
Foods That May Worsen Acid Reflux Disease
The consumption of certain foods may worsen the symptoms associated with acid reflux disease. Discussed below is a list of foods and substances that should be avoided by patients who have been diagnosed with acid reflux disease.
Some of the worse culprits include beer, wine, and liquor. If you cannot avoid alcohol, you should consider consuming it in small quantities alongside plenty of water to reduce its effects. It is also wise to avoid drinking at bedtime or when eating certain types of food that can worsen the symptoms.
Processed foods containing too many potatoes, energy drinks, and tea have been found to worsen the symptoms of acid reflux disease. They include foods such as crackers, chips, and cereals among others. The high amount of sodium in the processed foods is another reason to why its consumption is dangerous. A study revealed that individuals on a diet high in sodium content experience more acid reflux than those whose diet has a low sodium content.
The consumption of certain drinks including tea and coffee has been found to irritate the damaged esophagus. These drinks may also alter the performance of the lower esophageal sphincter.
Sugar And Artificial Sweeteners
The consumption of sugary foods are the leading causes of inflammation in most individuals diagnosed with acid reflux disease. These foods may lead to overeating and weight gain in people.
Many individuals have discovered that the removal of chocolate from their diet alleviates the symptoms of acid reflux disease. Most chocolate products contain ingredients such as sugar, caffeine, and fats which are some of the worst offenders.
Spicy ingredients such as cinnamon, chili, and pepper should not be consumed by individuals who have been diagnosed with acid reflux disease. The spicy ingredients may worsen the already unpleasant symptoms that are associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Products containing tomatoes and onions are healthy in general. However, the consumption of these foods may worsen the acid reflux disease symptoms in some patients. When these foods are eaten in large quantities, they may trigger the burning sensation in some patients with acid reflux disease.
Mint And Peppermint
The consumption of peppermint lowers the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter. As a result, the ability of the valve to prevent stomach contents from traveling into the esophagus is impaired.
Vegetable oils such as canola oil have been found to worsen the problems associated with acid reflux disease. Vegetable oils are common in packaged foods such as such as snacks and other fast foods.
Other foods that should be avoided by individuals diagnosed with acid reflux disease include carbonated beverages such as energy drinks and soft drinks. Even sparkling water and seltzer may make the symptoms of acid reflux disease worse. Dairy products such as cheese may stimulate the production of acid in the stomach which can worsen the symptoms.
Natural Remedies And Supplements For Acid Reflux Disease
Natural supplements such as digestive enzymes promote healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract. The patient should be given two capsules containing high-quality digestive enzymes before each meal.
Probiotics promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach. They also support the removal of harmful bacteria that may damage the digestive tract.
Consumption of ginger tea promotes the function of the gastrointestinal tract. Use of high-quality ginger available as capsules helps soothe the acid reflux disease symptoms.
Papaya leaf tea contains an enzyme known as papain. The enzyme promotes the breakdown of proteins in the intestines. Organic papaya leaf tea is the best alternative to fresh non-GMO papaya. One cup of fresh papaya should be taken at the onset of acid reflux to improve the symptoms.
Magnesium complex supplements should be taken to provide the body with an adequate supply of the mineral. Patients should be given 400 milligrams of magnesium complex supplement twice per day to help improve the performance of the valve.
Consumption of L-glutamine complex also improves the performance of the lower esophageal sphincter preventing the stomach contents from traveling up the esophagus. Research studies have shown that L-glutamine helps heal a defective valve and it may also benefit leaky IBS and ulcerative colitis.
Studies have also shown that melatonin is lower in individuals suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. In a study that was performed on people suffering from acid reflux disease, 50 percent of the participants experienced an improvement of the symptoms.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils such as lemon are helpful in alleviating acid reflux symptoms in some patients. However, consumption of this essential oil does not give the same results in all patients diagnosed with acid reflux disease.
3. Modification Of The Way You Eat And Chew
Persons with acid reflux disease should avoid consuming large meals. It is advisable to eat small quantities of food to allow proper digestion to occur. Large meals may put excessive pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter leading to impairment of its activity.
Individuals with gastroesophageal reflux disorder should avoid consuming meals three hours before bedtime. This strategy will provide the stomach with ample time to break down the food and absorb the nutrients into the bloodstream.
It is also important to ensure proper chewing of food. The process of digestion starts in the mouth. Good chewing ensures that food is broken down into small particles for easy absorption of the nutrients.
It is also advisable to wear comfortable clothing after eating. Tight-fitting clothing and belts may worsen the symptoms of the acid reflux disease.
4. Other Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes are crucial in curing acid reflux and gastrointestinal reflux disorder. Some of the lifestyle tips include sleeping on your side and elevating your head. Raising the head during sleep helps keep the acid in the stomach preventing the stomach contents from traveling into the esophagus.
Bending over can worsen the symptoms of the acid reflux disease as the position may squeeze the stomach. Stress management helps to alleviate acid reflux. Stress is associated with an increased production of acid in the stomach.
Moderate exercise can also improve symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux disorder.
Acid Reflux Disease Conclusion
Gastroesophageal reflux disorder is caused by the leakage of the stomach contents into the esophagus. The symptoms may include sour taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and bloating among others. Several factors may lead to the development of acid reflux disease. Home remedies for acid reflux disease include dietary changes and lifestyle changes among others.