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The truth about acid reflux

Firstly, let’s clear some terms up so that we all know what we are talking about as they are often used without a full understanding of what they mean. ACID REFLUX is a common medical condition that can range in severity from mild to serious. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the chronic, more severe form of acid reflux. HEARTBURN is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD. GERD is becoming increasingly problematic in children and it is important to address it as soon as symptoms arise.

Symptoms of acid reflux can include:

  • Bloating

  • Burping

  • Dysphagia -- a narrowing of your oesophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat

  • Hiccups that don't let up

  • Nausea

  • Weight loss for no known reason

  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat

Despite what many people think it is not an excess acid problem. It is very confusing because when we think of acid reflux we think of antacids and proton pump inhibitors to reduce the acid. Surely if the mediation helps with symptoms by reducing acid then that is the cause?

It is actually most often due to a dysfunction of the muscular valve (sphincter) that separates the lower end of the oesophagus and the stomach-the lower oesophageal valve (LOS). This valve should only open to allow food into the stomach or to burp and belch. Lovely!

Low stomach acid, stress, eating habits, food and drink choices, delayed gastric emptying, eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over afterwards, being overweight, pregnant, snacking close to bedtime, H. Pylori infection, poor digestion of food and a hiatus hernia can all affect the function of the LOS and in turn lead to acid reflux symptoms.

Excess stomach acid is only found in a few rare conditions like Zollinger-Ellison syndrome), and GERD is hardly ever associated with too much stomach acid.

If this LOS is working properly, it doesn’t matter how much acid we have in our stomachs-it is not going to back up into the oesophagus and cause acid reflux. Unlike the stomach, the lining of the oesophagus has no protection against acid and even a small amount of acid can cause damage so apart from the desire to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms it is important to address the issue in its totality to prevent further complications.

So what is actually causing this LOS to malfunction? It is to do with an increase in abdominal pressure. Acid reflux can occur when this pressure causes stomach bloating that pushes the stomach contents, including acid through the LOS into the oesophagus.

How do we stop it? Conventional medical use of PPIs such as omeprazole, antacids and H2 blockers help reduce symptoms however they do not address the cause of the problem and when used long-term there are many negative consequences that people may not be so aware of.

Nutritional Therapy helps address the root causes of acid reflux and to strengthen digestion using personalised lifestyle, diet and supplement recommendations.

I am a registered Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath, specialising in clinical paediatric nutrition and digestive health. My goal is to empower families, supermums and kids towards improved health and well-being. If you are interested in starting Nutritional Therapy for yourself, your family or your child then please contact me for more information/FREE discovery call or you can check out my services on my website.

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