In the medical world, the underlying cause of acid reflux is generally overlooked and treatment is focused on band-aid solutions such as acid blocking medications. The problem with these medications is that they often stop working after a period of time, and lead to further digestive issues when used long-term. Overcoming acid reflux for good means understanding why you have acid reflux in the first place. This blog post will discuss the leading underlying causes of acid reflux, testing and natural treatment approaches.
Here’s a breakdown of what we will cover:
What are acid reflux, GERD and heartburn and how can you tell the difference?
What is the antireflux barrier
The importance of stomach acid and why you likely DON’T have too much
Causes of acid reflux and GERD
Testing for the functional underlying causes of acid reflux
What is acid reflux?
The lower esophageal sphincter, which is a muscular band at the base of the esophagus works together with the diaphragm like a valve to narrow and widen the esophagus. Their role is to relax during eating to allow food to enter the stomach and then contract afterwards to prevent the content of the stomach from coming back up into the esophagus and throat.
When these sphincters fail and stomach acid and food reflux back up into the esophagus and throat, this is what we call ‘acid reflux’. The symptoms of acid reflux include:
A burning sensation or bitter taste at the back of the throat, sometimes with regurgitation of food.
A general complaint of stomach discomfort such as nausea after eating, burping, bloating, and upper abdominal discomfort.
What is GERD?
Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease is a more severe, chronic form of acid reflux. Generally it is accepted that if you suffer from acid reflux more than twice a week you have GERD, but often it happens more frequently than that. The symptoms of GERD are the same as acid reflux but in addition you may have a cough, laryngitis, chest pains, asthma or poor sleep.
What is the antireflux barrier?
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the diaphragm, the phrenoesophageal ligament (a ligament that attaches the esophagus to the diaphragm) and the gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) are the main components of the antireflux barrier. The GEJ is like a flap-valve that works with the LES to stop reflux.
The antireflux barrier not working properly is considered to be the main underlying cause of acid reflux. Ironically, the LES requires sufficient amounts of stomach acid to remain closed, and too little stomach acid can potentially lead to acid reflux and GERD, despite the main treatment for these conditions being medications to reduce stomach acid production.