stopping heartburn

Heartburn can feel like this sometimes. (great image thx to jamesreekie.blogspot.com)

Heartburn or acid reflux or GERD

Whatever the name, if you are like millions of others, you are experiencing this gastrointestinal malady. 

You may take your acid reflux problem for granted and buy your antacids at Costco, but you should be aware of the negative effects this has on your entire body. You also should know that heartburn is a sign of other problems, and can almost always be treated without acid blockers.

The Prevalence of Acid Reflux Disease


Acid rising from the stomach and irritating the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, results in the feeling of what is commonly called heartburn. 


Some 35 to 45 percent of the population experiences heartburn, often called GERD or “gastroesophageal reflux disease”. That’s a whopping 116 million people! It’s also the most profitably treated symptom in America. Last year, Prilosec was the top selling prescription drug in the world, earning Astra Zeneca, the drug’s maker, 6 billion dollars. 


This sad state of affairs means that it is almost considered normal to have GERD and to take drugs for it. However, heartburn is far less than normal, and those experiencing it are definitely nowhere near optimal health.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux 


Acid reflux is generally felt as a burning pain in the middle of the chest. It may also feel like a pressure in the chest. In some people it can be so bad that it is difficult to keep food down and may even result in dental erosion. 


Over time reflux can result in damage to the LES, called Barrett’s Esophagitis, and even cancer.
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(image thanks to printactivities.com)

In order to cure acid reflux disease, you must remove the cause of the problem and promote the healing process. The following are the most common causes: 



Food allergies: In my practice I have found that a majority of cases of heartburn are caused by food allergies. Food allergies often cause a host of other problems and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. 



Foods: certain foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, thus leading to heartburn. These include peppermint, coffee, alcohol and chocolate. 



Hiatal hernia: This is a physical condition where part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm. It can generally be reduced without surgery, though even when present it is not necessarily the sole cause of heartburn 



Low Acid Production: Ironically, low stomach acid levels can result in heartburn. This is much more common than increased acid. This problem can be assessed clinically and is readily treatable. 



Medications: Many medications cause heartburn as a side-effect, including, several acid blockers.

These include:
    •    Acid Blockers: Prevacid, Prilosec, Zantac, etc.
    •    Asthma inhalers (beclamethasone, flovent, etc).
    •    Corticosteroids
    •    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
    •    Antianxiety medications, such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan).
    •    Osteoporosis drugs such as alendronate (Fosamax).

Overeating: Of course. The stomach is only so big, even if the eyes and the mouth are bigger.

Pregnancy & Obesity: These are related in that both put pressure on the stomach, decreasing it’s volume and forcing food back from whence it came. 



Stress: Stress is a small word with big health consequences. Stress can be the sole cause of heartburn, but often it is exacerbating other causes. Regardless, there are nutrients, herbs and therapies that will help you deal with your stress. 



Smoking: Smoking also causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, leading to heartburn. 

If you experience heartburn please schedule an appointment so that we can sort through the possible causes and provide you with permanent relief. Even heartburn caused by necessary drugs can be treated in a way that is much healthier and more effective than acid blockers.

For information on testing for food allergies, visit our Contact page on the IBS Treatment Center website.

Image thanks to printactivities.com

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