Oh My GERD: What might be behind your heart burn
Heart burn got its name for exactly how it sounds, a burning sensation in your chest. However, the condition has nothing to do with your actual heart. Heart burn, or in medical terms Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease (GERD), actually has to do with the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The sphincter connects the top of the stomach to your esophagus and allows food to come in and keeps stomach acid from splashing out. In GERD, when the sphincter wrongfully relaxes or opens, you will feel your stomach acid splash up and sizzle the walls of the esophagus. Ouchie!
Stomach acid has a lot to do with it. I’m sure you’re expecting me to go on about having too much of it. And although, that can play a role in the level of discomfort you feel, aka the more acidic the acid the more damage that occurs, not enough stomach acid production is bad too! This can be confusing when all you feel is burning in your chest!! The LES actual requires a certain amount of acid to stay tightly closed, so when you don’t have enough stomach acid, the sphincter will remains open, letting that acid splash on up - creating burning discomfort.
Putting the Fire Out
Before beginning treatment, conventionally or naturopathically, it is important to figure out if you are in the “too much” or “too little” stomach acid category. There are ways of doing this using the Apple Cider Vinegar Protocol or HCL Challenge but should be supervised by your naturopathic doctor, or alternate health care provider. After figuring out the root cause, it is possible to rebalance your body which might resemble toning your LES or improving natural stomach acid production.
Otherwise, GERD is very treatable and well managed by lifestyle changes. Most people don’t seek medical attention when experiencing heart burn due to it’s frequency in society. However, repeated damage to the wall of your esophagus can lead to internal scarring and ulcerations. These cellular changes can predispose you to a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus and even cancer, so it’s extremely important to nip it in the bud before getting to this point.
Time to Try
As mentioned above, there are many lifestyle factors that may be helpful for avoiding heart burn. It is important to avoid triggers in order to give your body time to heal any damage your esophagus might have already endured.
Here are 5 lifestyle changes that could help reduce symptoms:
Smaller portion meals
Don’t eat before lying down (lying down naturally opens the sphincter)
Avoid trigger foods – chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, spices, onions, alcohol
Loosing weight, if overweight