What To Do About That Thanksgiving Heartburn!
GERD: Causes, Symptoms, & Prevention
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as GERD, is something we see in a majority of our patients at Brookview Wellness. GERD is a condition in which the contents of the stomach repeatedly regurgitate up into the esophagus, causing pain and discomfort. When this condition is chronic, the consistent acid reflux can cause damage to the esophagus, pharynx, and respiratory tract.
There are a few main culprits of GERD, but one of the most common causes is a weak sphincter muscle at the base of your esophagus. When this muscle does not close properly, acid can leak back up into your throat and cause the irritation commonly referred to as heartburn. Sometimes, you may even taste the acid in your mouth and feel it climbing up your throat.
Another common cause for GERD is NOT ENOUGH stomach acid… What?!? Yes, if you don’t secrete enough stomach acid due to chronic stress, thyroid dysfunction, metabolic dysfunction it can cause GERD.
When you don’t have enough stomach acid the food sits in your stomach and doesn’t digest or break down. When it doesn’t break down you feed like the food is just sitting there. That food stays in the stomach and begins to reflux into the esophagus causing GERD. Remember that muscle we spoke about earlier? It will not close if there is not enough stomach acid being produced. (LIGHTBULB!) If you have these sensations more than twice per week, you may have GERD.
Many people experience this chronic acid reflux, but understanding the causes and making lifestyle changes to prevent GERD from developing lead many people to the relief they are seeking.
What Are the Most Common Causes & Symptoms?
These regular bouts of acid reflux can be caused by a variety of things, from lifestyle and diet choices to medication.
Factors that can cause GERD include:
- Eating large meals or eating late at night
- Eating certain foods intolerances or triggers such as spicy, fatty, or fried foods
- Drinking certain beverages, such as coffee or alcohol
- Taking certain medications, such as aspirin
- Being overweight or obese
- Delayed emptying of the stomach (gastroparesis)
- Thyroid issues – not producing enough stomach acid
- Stress – not producing enough stomach acid
If you experience consistent acid reflux and can check the box of some of the conditions above, it is likely you have GERD and could benefit from making some changes to prevent this uncomfortable and damaging condition.
The list of symptoms for GERD is long and may vary, but we see the following symptoms very commonly among our patients:
- Food just sitting in the stomach
- Regurgitation (food comes back into your mouth from the esophagus)
- The feeling of a lump in your throat
- Chest pain or tightness
- Problems swallowing
- Sore throat and hoarseness
- Shortness of breath
- Non-burning chest pain
If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis, it can be very tempting to simply pop an antacid like Tums, take H2 blockers such as Pepcid, or even a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) like Nexium. Unfortunately, use of any of these remedies beyond the recommended 14-day period can cause significant damage to your digestive system and make you more susceptible to kidney issues, dementia and even stomach cancer.
Let’s talk about some natural relief options for acid reflux that you can try instead of turning to over-the-counter medications for relief.
What are Some Natural Relief Options?
Next time you find yourself subconsciously rubbing your collar bone due to heartburn after a heavy meal, try one of these home remedies to get some relief from the reflux you are experiencing.
Apple Cider Vinegar
You may think that reflux happens when you have too much acid in your stomach, but it is actually the opposite. GERD and consistent reflux are caused by a low level of stomach acid.
Taking just a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar prior to eating can help your stomach generate more acid, therefore becoming more productive when digesting the food you eat afterwards. (*dilute in water or make sure to rinse mouth after taking the ACV) We understand that it seems counter-intuitive to add an acid to help with an acid issue, but this one works! The science behind this is solid and well-researched, and Dr. Brooke often recommends this solution to her patients with GERD.
This one often surprises people! Did you know that you can ask your chiropractor to adjust your stomach? With just a few simple moves, your doctor can slightly reposition your stomach for more optimal digestion. You can even learn to do this yourself! Talk to Dr. Alex about this at your next chiropractic appointment.
Another natural remedy for reflux is consuming an alkaline food to counteract the stomach acid irritating your esophagus. Some options for this remedy include ripe bananas, spinach, melons, cauliflower, fennel, and some nuts.
Beyond these simple remedies, the good news is that GERD can be managed and even eliminated. You can make lifestyle and diet changes that can reduce and sometimes end chronic acid reflux.
How Can You Prevent GERD?
- Maintain a healthy weight – Extra belly fat creates pressure on your abdomen, causing acid to be pushed up into your esophagus. This is one of the leading causes of GERD, so any improvements you can make to lose extra weight will have a positive affect on your reflux symptoms.
- Avoid foods known to cause reflux – Simply avoiding foods like coffee, carbonated beverages, tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, mint, onions, spicy foods and fatty foods can drastically reduce the occurrences of reflux.
- Eat smaller meals – Larger meals create pressure that pushes the acid into your throat. Eat smaller portions to avoid reflux.
- Don’t lie down after eating and elevate your bed when you do sleep – It’s best to eat at least three hours before you lie down to rest. When you do go to bed, elevate your bed or torso so that gravity is in your favor to reduce reflux.
- Review your medications – Have a conversation with your doctor about your current medications and if they could be the cause of some of your acid reflux symptoms. Many medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and even medications that are commonly used to help with reflux could be the culprit.
- Dr. Brooke BONUS! – Avoid sitting for too long, working at a desk can increase your chances of GERD by simply pushing your stomach up. When the stomach is pushed up too far, the hiatal sphincter slightly pushes through the diaphragm and that keeps the sphincter open causing reflux. In worse case scenarios a hiatal hernia can happen. Again, ask your Chiropractor aka, Dr. Alex, to adjust this for you!
If you are struggling to get control of your GERD symptoms, reach out to Dr. Brooke to Schedule a Discovery Call to discuss a plan that could make all the difference in improving your quality of life. We look forward to helping you RESTORE + OPTIMIZE your wellness into 2023.