Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD), or heartburn, as you are probably more familiar with it, is characterized by stomach acid flowing back into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. This tube, your esophagus, is coated in a thin lining that is irritated by this backwash of acid which is the source of your discomfort. Acid reflux, while unpleasant, is fairly common and harmless when experienced infrequently. However, those with chronic heartburn or GERD will experience their symptoms at least once a week with more severe cases causing daily discomfort.
If your discomfort is frequent and upsetting your enjoyment of life, it may be time to address it. If left unaddressed, that burning feeling in your chest or neck can lead to difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, and or a chronic cough.
What Causes GERD?
The uncomfortable feeling you get when you are experiencing heartburn in your chest or neck is caused when the contents from your stomach move from where they belong in your stomach up into your esophagus. Your esophagus is equipped to handle this with what is called the lower esophageal sphincter or (LES). This is a ring of muscles near the end of your esophagus that opens and closes when you chew and swallow by relaxing and then tightening again. Normally, these muscles are what keeps the digestive acids and juices within your stomach from seeping into your esophagus. When the stomach has difficulty passing its contents on to the small intestine and the contents become “backed up” is when you will experience discomfort.
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, symptoms of GERD and heartburn can be treated by simple lifestyle changes in most cases. Like most things, we must first take a look at your eating habits and other behaviors that could be causing your unwellness. Factors like your diet or your stress level could be the culprit. Try introducing foods that are low in fat or sugar, are anti-inflammatory, or will otherwise lower or neutralize the excess acid and reduce your symptoms. These include vegetables, ginger, oatmeal, healthy fats like egg whites, avocados, walnuts and olive oil.
Likewise, it will help to avoid foods that may cause an excess of acid in your stomach like tomatoes and citrus fruits. This is also common with garlic and spicy foods, mint, and excess caffeine. Many will find that foods that are high in fat or fried will cause the LES to relax and allow stomach acid to rise up into their esophagus. Naturally, each person will have their own individual triggers and will need to discover what causes and irritates their GERD symptoms.
In the picture of your overall health, your stress levels can also not be overlooked. The physical effects that your stress levels and anxiety can play on your body are no secret, and GERD symptoms are no exception. High-stress levels can have an overall effect of decreasing the capacity of the digestive system to process a meal and create a condition that can be understood as stagnation – or a slowing down the whole process and thus a backing-up of stomach contents. Keeping these in check with stress management techniques like meditation and regular exercise can help you to keep a better overall picture of health free from heartburn and GERD.
Outside of these causes and remedies, more severe cases may require more attention. Our team of professionals is here to support you in creating a healthier lifestyle for your gut health and managing your gut symptoms with our holistic GERD treatment. Work with experts in functional medicine, nutrition, and stress resilience to create an individualized wellness plan for your health. We seek to not only address your acid reflux symptoms but to understand the root causes of why you are having those symptoms in the first place. After addressing these issues at their roots, we will work to create a wellness plan by building the skills and habits you need to manage your symptoms and to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Contact our office for a no-charge welcome call with either our Health Coach Kathleen, or Nate, our nutritionist and dietitian, to learn more about our holistic acid reflux treatment.