T’is the season for over-eating. T’is the season for GERD! 60 million people suffer from GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as acid reflux. Are they the same thing? Yes, and no. Acid reflux can progress to GERD which is a more severe form of reflux. This is heartburn at it’s finest and as we go full swing into the holidays, more and more people will be over eating and suffering the consequences. So if you’d like to dodge this aggravating problem before you grab another Tom & Jerry, keep reading!
Your esophagus is about 10″ long. At the bottom of it is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that only opens one way (down into your stomach). When that little valve doesn’t work right (or at all) the hydrochloric acid in your stomach can back up into your esophagus. This can cause heartburn, but just so you know, you can have reflux without heartburn. Huh? These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different. You can have reflux, but may not always feel it. Heartburn is that painful tightness and burning in your chest (sometimes confused with a heart attack!) and it’s literally your stomach acid burning a hole in the lining of your esophagus. So if you have heartburn, you’ve definitely got a reflux problem! If it happens often, you’re in more trouble, so don’t just reach for the TUMS!
GERD is made worse by any of the following: tight fitting clothing, obesity, smoking, eating too many acidic foods, too much alcohol, smoking, and eating big holiday meals!
If you’re having reflux issues, it’s best to see your healthcare practitioner first. You could have a hiatal hernia that could be causing your GERD. You also want to rule out any potential heart problems – sometimes what seems like heartburn IS a heart attack! Once diagnosed, if you’re seeking treatment for GERD or reflux from an MD – avoid the use of anti-heartburn meds (a.k.a. proton pump inhibitors or PPIs) if at all possible. You’ll know them as Prylosec, Prevacid, and Nexium. You’ll see in this article from Dr. Mercola why they aren’t good for you. Like so many other Rx drugs, long term use of PPIs cause the very symptoms they’re supposed to treat! And here’s another important contributor to reflux/GERD:
An organism called helicobacter pylori (initially called campylobacter) can also cause a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, and is responsible, or at least a major factor, for producing many of the symptoms of acid reflux. (Another reason to see your healthcare practitioner!)
If you’re suffering from GERD, you’re probably thinking you have too much acid in your stomach, the truth is you probably don’t have enough. Our diets are usually to blame, but pregnancy, being overweight. You need acid to digest your food and to fight off food born ilnesses. Remember, your immune system is housed in your gut. An unhealthy gut makes for an unhealthy you! When you use PPIs to treat your reflux/GERD you shouldn’t use them for more than a few months. Long term use of PPIs can lead to serious problems like:
1) Increased risk of pneumonia
2) Increased risk of hip fractures
4) Drug interactions (because it lowers the ph of the stomach & gut)
So now that you know all the problems with GERD/reflux, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of it?
- See your healthcare practitioner to rule out hernias or heart issues.
- If you’re overweight – shed some pounds (easier said than done during the holidays!)
- Don’t eat 2-3 hrs. before bedtime.
- Raise the head of your bed by six inches.
- Take 2-3 tsps. of apple cider vinegar in 8 oz. water before meals or whenever heartburn strikes. You can also use 1 tsp. baking soda with 8 oz. water – but don’t don’t use this remedy often.
- Try Raw Manuka Honey from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms with it’s great antibacterial properties. (good for helicobacter pylori)
- Avoid trigger foods: peppermint, chocolate, fried/fatty foods, alcohol, tomatoes & tomato-based products, citrus juices and caffeinated foods.
- Follow a diet that helps control the pH levels of your body and learn more about healthy nourishing foods that will heal your gut.
- You can also help restore the natural acids in your stomach with a betaine hydrochloric acid supplements like our popular Betain HCL & Pepsin from Thorne Research.
- Holiday Foods May Trigger GERD Symptoms (bighealthtree.com)
- Understanding Silent GERD (everydayhealth.com)