The Many Causes of Acid Reflux

The Many Causes of Acid Reflux

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About Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be caused by a variety of reasons from eating a spicy meal to having an abnormality in the esophagus or taking medication for asthma. Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach contents back up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation like heartburn and, if chronic, can cause damage to the esophagus over time. Many people merely take antacids or acid reducers to alleviate the pain, but if acid reflux is chronic there may be an underlying condition that is causing the problem. Here are some causes why a person may be experiencing acid reflux.

Acidic Food Choices
For the person who is experiencing acid reflux occasionally, it could be he is eating too many spicy or fatty foods. Foods high in acidic content, such as citrus fruits and juices or tomatoes and onions can be the cause of acid reflux. Caffeine is another culprit. Too much coffee, chocolate or tea can cause a high acid content in the stomach. Eating too much at one time can also cause the food to digest too slowly and back up into the esophagus. For those who experience acid reflux occasionally, watching their diet and taking an antacid is the best way to alleviate the problem.

Esophagus Abnormalities
People with acid reflux that experience symptoms such as sore throat, chronic cough, hoarseness or feeling like they have a lump in their throat are more likely to have an abnormality of the esophagus. Adult-Ringed Esophagus is a condition in which a person has multiple rings around the esophagus that causes trouble with swallowing and food getting stuck or backing up. Motility Abnormalities is a problem with spontaneous muscle action in the esophagus. These abnormalities have to be diagnosed by a doctor.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Muscle Malfunction
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle is responsible for closing off after food has emptied into the stomach and not allow it back up into the esophagus. These muscles can weaken, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and cause acid reflux. This weakening can occur from drugs, nervous system factors or dietary substances causing the muscles to become impared.

The Link between Asthma and Acid Reflux
According to the Cleveland Clinic in an article titled “GERD and Asthma”, seventy-five percent of people who have asthma also suffer from acid reflux. Experts believe that acid reflux can be triggered by the sneezing and coughing associated with an asthma attack. Other concerns are that medications taken by asthmatics to relax and dilate the airways may also relax the LES and allow stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. Sleeping with the head elevated slightly, eating smaller meals, limiting acidic foods from the diet and allowing foods to digest properly before lying down are all ways that acid reflux can be prevented.

Impaired Stomach Function
Nearly half of all people who suffer from acid reflux are found to have some abnormal muscle or nerve function in the stomach. In these cases, the stomach is unable to contract normally and does not digest and empty at a normal rate allowing for the risk of stomach content to back up into the esophagus. Eating smaller meals and allowing time for food to digest may help to alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux.

Genetic Association with Acid Reflux
Genetics may also play a role in suffering from acid reflux. Stomach or esophagus structure problems may be genetic in families. This is especially important to be aware of in the case of genetic susceptibility to Barrett’s esophagus. This condition makes a person more susceptible to esophageal cancer due to long-term damage of the esophagus by stomach acid. If a member of your family has been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus and you also suffer from acid reflux, it is important to be checked regularly by your doctor.

Pain Relievers and Acid Reflux
Many over-the-counter pain relievers that are taken on a regular basis can contribute to acid reflux. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are all culprits as well as many prescription pain relievers. This only applies to people who take these medications for more than six months on a regular basis. Taking the occasional pain reliever should not cause symptoms of acid reflux.

Other Medications
There is a long list of medications that can cause acid reflux to flare up. Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, anticholinergics taken for urinary tract infections, beta adrenergic agonists used for asthma, and dopamine taken for Parkinson’s disease are just some of the drugs that can cause acid reflux. Many antibiotics as well as iron pills and potassium can also be culprits. Check with your doctor if you believe the medication you are taking is causing you to suffer from acid reflux.

If you are experiencing acid reflux on a regular basis then talk to your doctor about the causes and treatment. Simple changes in the diet as well as a few lifestyle changes may be all you need to do to treat it. However, if there is an underlying cause, it is important for you to find out what it is and how to treat it.

Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori)

Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori)

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H. Pylori is a much easier way of referring to ‘Helicobacter Pylori’, a bacteria existing in the stomach and one that can be held responsible for a number of medical conditions.

From the outset, the fact that H.Pylori is capable of causing stomach ulcers, severe dyspepsia (heartburn) and even stomach cancer makes it seem intolerable and dangerous. Yet what many do not know is that the majority of people who do have it living in their stomachs will never experience any symptoms.

Around 50% of the world’s population are living with H.Pylori in their stomachs at this very moment, yet only 12% of those people will ever have any problems. Some medical experts argue that H.Pylori is beneficial to most people, acting as a ‘good bacteria’ just like lactobacillus acidophilus which is present in every healthy person’s mouth, digestive system and even genitals.

For those 12% whose bodies do react badly to H.Pylori, however, the symptoms can be severe. In most cases infection occurs in childhood and causes the onset of dyspepsia and stomach pain. These are both rare conditions for children and are good indicators for a doctor of what it wrong. In adults, however, heartburn and indigestion don’t always point directly to H.Pylori and diagnosis and treatment can take longer. Meanwhile, the bacterial infection causes an increase in stomach acid, which in turn weakens the stomach lining, causing pain, nausea, bloating, inflammation and even ulceration.

Treatment for H.Pylori can be just as bad, if not worse than the initial infection, but does clear up the problem within a fortnight. Patients are prescribed a ‘tripod’ method of treatment, which includes a standard antibiotic such as Amoxycillin, a stronger antibiotic such as Metronidazole and a proton pump inhibitor such as Omeprazole (PPIs prevent the stomach from producing so much acid, which H.Pylori thrive on). This cocktail of medications often cause severe nausea for the duration that they are taken, but this can sometimes be counteracted by frequent consumption of probiotic yogurts, drinks and tablets.

If you think you are suffering from an H.Pylori infection then you should book an appointment with your doctor immediately. In the meantime, cut down on alcohol, cigarettes and acidic drinks such as orange juice as much as you can. You are likely to need a blood test to see if you have H.Pylori, but there are also breath tests available. Treatment should take no longer than a fortnight, and while you may experience some stomach inflammation afterwards, this should go away within one month when you continue to take proton pump inhibitors. Helicobacter Pylori can prove to be nasty for some people, but luckily it is very easily treated.

GERD Triggers: Smoking, Obesity and Other Causes of Heartburn

GERD Triggers: Smoking, Obesity and Other Causes of Heartburn

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It’s unclear why one person suffers from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) while someone else only experiences sporadic heartburn even when diet, lifestyle and other factors are identical. Nor is it clear exactly what conditions cause GERD. Factors that can trigger GERD symptoms, however, are well known. Hiatal hernias, certain foods, smoking, and obesity are all linked to gastroesophageal reflux.

Acid Reflux 101

When discussing GERD and acid reflux it’s important to understand how acid reflux occurs. The mouth and the stomach are connected by a tube called the esophagus. The inner lining of the esophagus is not as durable as the stomach lining, which is designed to withstand stomach acid.

The lower esophageal sphincter prevents stomach acid from travelling up from the stomach into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter is a smooth muscular ring that seals tightly when food is not passing into the stomach. If food is swallowed, the esophageal sphincter relaxes, opening a passageway into the stomach.

This system prevents stomach acid from washing back up into the esophagus – an action known as reflux. In most people the system works well, although not perfectly. Most people have experienced some degree of heartburn, which occurs when the sensitive lining of the esophagus comes into contact with stomach acid.

People with GERD however, experience acid reflux on a regular basis. Either their lower esophageal sphincter relaxes when it should be closed, or the muscle cannot close completely. Both circumstances can trigger GERD symptoms.

Hiatal Hernias and Acid Reflux

A hiatal hernia occurs when a piece of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, which separates the stomach from the chest. The esophagus passes through a hole in the diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus.

If the esophageal hiatus is too large, a portion of the stomach can slip through it into the chest, interfering with the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to close properly. People with GERD often have hiatal hernias, although acid reflux can also occur without the presence of a hiatal hernia.

Anyone can develop a hiatal hernia at any stage of life, but the risk of hiatal hernias rises as people age. People over the age of fifty are most likely to develop hiatal hernias.

Smoking and Acid Reflux

Smoking increases the risk of many health conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease. Smoking relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. Quitting smoking goes a long way towards treating GERD (although, as any smoker knows, quitting is easier said than done).

Food that Triggers GERD

No specific food or drink causes GERD, but certain types of food are known to trigger GERD symptoms. Spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine and tomato-based food are all known to trigger acid reflux, as are chocolate, onions and garlic.

Alcohol is a common trigger of GERD symptoms, as alcoholic drinks irritate the lower esophageal sphincter. Other foods have the same effect as smoking, and relax the esophageal sphincter. Peppermint-based foods, for instance, are well-known for their ability to cause acid reflux, and should be avoided by anyone who suffers from GERD.

Body Weight and GERD

A person’s body weight influences his or her risk of GERD. People who are overweight or obese have higher rates of GERD than people whose weight is at healthier levels. It’s thought that extra weight places pressure on the abdomen, which in turn causes GERD symptoms by forcing stomach contents into the esophagus. Losing weight can help alleviate these symptoms.

Acid reflux is also common during pregnancy. Weight gain is only partially to blame for GERD symptoms during pregnancy, however. Hormonal changes are also thought to play a role in increased acid reflux, and the growing fetus puts pressure on the stomach.

You don’t need to be overweight or pregnant to put pressure on your abdomen. Tight clothing works much like excess weight, squeezing the abdomen and increasing the risk of heartburn or acid reflux.

Not all GERD triggers can be avoided – you may be susceptible to hiatal hernias, for instance. Other triggers, such as specific foods, smoking and weight gain, can be avoided, reducing the risk and frequency of uncomfortable acid reflux symptoms.

Bromelain What you need to know

Bromelain: What you need to know

Bromelain (Ananas comosus), a mix of enzymes from the stem of the pineapple plant, was first introduced in 1957. It has been shown to lessen inflammation and reduce types of swelling, making this especially useful in the treatment of arthritis and sports related injuries. These enzymes block the production of kinins that form during inflammation. Bromelain supplements may be as effective as some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications (like ibuprofen) for reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis. Early studies suggest that bromelain may also help in pain reduction for rheumatoid arthritis. The enzyme could be used in connective tissue disorders as well.

A normal dose of bromelain for these will range (for adults) from 250-750 mg three times a day. The German Commission E recommends 80 to 320 mg two to three times per day. For specific conditions, higher doses may be prescribed as follows: Digestive aid (500 mg in divided doses with meals), Traumatic injuries (500 mg four times a day on empty stomach), and Joint inflammation (500-2000 mg a day in two divided doses). Other possible applications of Bromelain are for cancer, dysmenorhea, atherosclerosis, infection, wound healing, and scleroderma. There is no known pediatric use of bromelain and therefore no dose of this in children is recommended.
The allergic reaction symptoms of taking it are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), and metrorrhagia (non-menstruation bleeding from uterus). Care should be taken and bromelain not used for more than 8-10 days in a row. People who have had an allergic reaction in the past to pineapple shouldn’t take bromelain. Pregnant or nursing women, those with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, or liver/kidney disease should not take bromelain. Those on antibiotics should also not take this, Talk to your healthcare provider about this enzyme and whether it is right for your situation.

Tina Samuels is a freelance writer and book author out of Rome, GA. She can be reached at tinasam69@hotmail.com.

Heartburn and Natural Remedies

Heartburn and Natural Remedies

Do you suffer from occasional episodes of heartburn? Almost everyone experiences periodic mild heartburn after eating too fast or overindulging. Infrequent cases of mild heartburn generally don’t require treatment with prescription medications but they do necessitate some relief. Before attempting a natural treatment for heartburn, be sure that what you’re experiencing truly is heartburn. In some cases, a heart attack or peptic ulcer can give symptoms similar to heartburn. If you experience any new symptoms or if your discomfort is unusually severe, get medical attention immediately. Also, if heartburn happens to you on a frequent basis (more than once a week), see your doctor. You may have GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease which can erode the esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer unless treated with medications. If you’re experiencing your typical, garden variety episode of heartburn after a heavy meal, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your symptoms without medications. Here’s how to get rid of heartburn naturally:
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Heartburn During Exercise

Heartburn During Exercise

If you work out regularly, particularly if you exercise at a rigorous pace, you may have experienced the uncomfortable sensation of burning in your throat and esophagus. Heartburn with exercise is sometimes known as exercised or gym induced GERD. GERD is an abbreviation for the common condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition thought to affect more than one-third of all women. It’s also quite common in males.
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Heartburn and Fenugreek

Heartburn and Fenugreek

Many Americans reach for an antacid to relieve heartburn symptoms they experience after eating a meal. Heartburn is caused by reflux of acid back into the esophagus from the stomach due to a weak flap separating the two organs. Now there’s good news for people who don’t like to take medications. There’s a natural way to treat heartburn and acid reflux – by using an herb called fenugreek.

Benefits of Fenugreek: What is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek is an herb native to countries along the Mediterranean Sea. People have used it down through the ages for its medicinal benefits – as an aid to milk release during breastfeeding and for treating digestive disorders.
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All About GERD

All About GERD

Do you suffer from nocturnal GERD? Nocturnal GERD is a term used to describe reflux of acid into the esophagus that occurs at night when you lie down in bed. Since you may spend eight hours during the night in a recumbent position which can potentially expose the esophagus to significant amounts of refluxed acid, the health consequences of nocturnal GERD are of concern. Long term exposure to this acid can cause changes in the lining of the esophagus that may increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer. Plus, nocturnal GERD can be right down uncomfortable if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of nocturnal GERD? Sometimes the symptoms are obvious and may include awakening in the night with heartburn symptoms or by a sensation of acid or food material in the back of your throat. Other times symptoms can be as subtle as hoarseness, wheezing, or a recurring cough. The diagnosis can usually be made based on clinical symptoms by your doctor. If symptoms fail to resolve after a trial of treatment, more extensive testing may be needed such as endoscopy.

If you have the symptoms of nocturnal GERD, what can you do to get relief? Although there are prescription medications available, simple lifestyle changes can also provide some relief for your symptoms. If you’re taking medications, these should be reviewed with your doctor since certain meds can make GERD symptoms worse. Once your medications have been cleared with your doctor, it’s time to consider your body weight.

If you’re overweight, this can have a significant impact on your symptoms. Reassessing your diet and starting an exercise program to lose weight can help to improve nocturnal GERD. Diet plays a role in other ways. Certain foods can trigger symptoms including chocolate, onions, coffee, foods that are high in fats, spicy foods, and alcohol. Eliminating these foods can make an enormous difference in the severity of your symptoms. It’s also important to quit smoking since this can worsen GERD symptoms.

Other lifestyle changes which may be helpful in the treatment of nocturnal GERD include elevating the head of your bead and reducing compression on the stomach by wearing loose fitting clothing when you go to bed at night. Another tactic that’s been shown to be effective is to sleep on your left side which alters the distribution of gastric acid in the stomach and can help to prevent reflux at night.

If nocturnal GERD symptoms fail to resolve with lifestyle changes, your doctor may encourage you to use antacids to help neutralize the acidic pH of your stomach. Antacids generally offer only short term symptom relief. He may also prescribe one of several types of medications that can suppress acid formation in the stomach which known as histamine 2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. A natural substance that’s being investigated for control of GERD symptoms is d-limonene.

It’s important that nocturnal GERD symptoms be treated to reduce the risk of future complications and damage to the lining of the esophagus. Be sure to consult with your family doctor if your symptoms fail to resolve with treatment.

Chocolate and Heartburn

Chocolate and Heartburn

Do you get heartburn after eating chocolate? Chocolate is not only one of America’s best loved foods, it has a surprising number of health benefits due to the flavonoids it contains. These flavonoids fight free radical damage and reduce inflammation, and also boost the production of nitric oxide, a chemical which helps to lower blood pressure. There’s no doubt about it. Eating chocolate is healthy for your heart – but maybe not so good for your esophagus. Find out more about chocolate and heartburn.

Chocolate and Heartburn: Does Chocolate Cause Heartburn after Eating?

Sadly, that morsel of dark chocolate you enjoy after dinner could bring on heartburn later. How could something so good for your heart cause heartburn? Chocolate contains theobromines, an alkaloid compound that’s related to caffeine found in coffee, tea and soft drinks. The theobromines in chocolate lower esophageal sphincter pressure so that acid can more easily make its way from the stomach back into the esophagus. The result? A bad case of heartburn.

Some people are exquisitely sensitive to the theobromines in chocolate and experience heartburn after eating only a small amount of chocolate. Dry cocoa powder and unsweetened Baker’s chocolate contain the greatest amounts of theobromine followed by dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains less, and white chocolate only has tiny amounts. You may be able to eat white chocolate without triggering heartburn symptoms, although white chocolate is high in fat, which can cause heartburn too. Of course, white chocolate lacks the health benefits that makes dark chocolate such a healthy treat.

Chocolate Isn’t the Only Food That Causes Heartburn after Eating
Since theobromine in chocolate is closely related to the caffeine molecule, it’s not surprising that caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea trigger heartburn. Other culprits are alcohol, citrus juices, onions, tomatoes and foods that are high in fat.

Chocolate and Heartburn: The Bottom Line?

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can trigger heartburn in people who have acid reflux problems. If you can’t stay away from chocolate, eat a small amount of white chocolate instead of dark chocolate if you’re prone towards acid reflux symptoms. You won’t get the same health benefits, and you’ll get too much fat and sugar, but you’re less likely to get heartburn after eating it.

References:
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.

Acid Reflux Relief

Acid Reflux Relief

Do you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux disease? If so, you’re in good company. You may be surprised to discover that ten percent of Americans have acid reflux symptoms on a daily basis and more than four in ten have symptoms at least once a month. Although there are prescription medications to help with the symptoms of acid reflux disease, they don’t always provide complete relief. Sometimes, despite taking your prescription medications, you can experience those familiar symptoms of heartburn. Is there a way to get quick, natural acid relief?

Fortunately, the answer may be “yes”. The simple solution may lie with that inexpensive pack of gum you picked up at the drugstore. If you left your antacid at home, that five cent stick of gum may be the next best thing to help get heartburn symptoms under control. A study published in the medical journal Digestion confirmed this interesting natural acid relief treatment by giving ten volunteers a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid. It was found that giving the volunteers chewing gum helped to speed up the rate at which the acid was cleared from the esophagus, resulting in relief of heartburn pain.

Chewing gum for natural acid relief may work in other ways too. It helps to stimulate the flow of saliva which has an alkaline pH that can help neutralize the acidic pH of the hydrochloric acid found in the stomach. Chewing gum also stimulates swallowing so that stomach acid is diluted and more rapidly cleared from the esophagus so it can’t cause symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.

Not surprisingly, the most famous chewing gum company of all, Wrigley’s, thought they had found a way to profit from this finding. Several years ago they sold an antacid chewing gum called Surpass which was designed for natural acid relief. Although a study published in Ailment Pharmacology Therapy showed that antacid gums such as this are superior to traditional chewable antacids, sales were slow and the product was discontinued. Nevertheless, you don’t need an antacid chewing gum to get symptom relief. Any chewing gum should help to some degree.

One warning. If you’re using non-antacid chewing gum for natural acid relief, it may be best to choose a flavor other than peppermint. Peppermint has been shown to lower esophageal sphincter pressure which could worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.

The next time you leave your antacids at home, never fear. Just reach for that packet of chewing gum and get ready to feel the relief.