Acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) is the phenomenon where stomach juices including acid travel back (reflux) to the esophagus from the stomach. Research done recently shows that some one in five people in the developed world must put up once a week with symptoms related to acid reflux, while a further one in five suffer from the distress and sometimes pain of these symptoms at least every month. However, most patients do not really know what GERD is.
What is the local and immediate cause of acid reflux?
Acid reflux happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (the name for the valve or circle of muscle between the stomach and the esophagus) does not close correctly, failing to prevent stomach juices from traveling back up, or refluxing, into the esophagus. When the esophagus lining comes into contact with these juices, a burning sensation in the chest and/or the throat is produced, which is called heartburn.
Although it seems strange, heartburn may also be symptomatic of too little stomach acid. The level of stomach acid has to be enough for digestion to be effective, and prevent the stomach from being obliged to work much harder for the food to be digested. In time, the extra effort of the stomach can lead to acid reflux happening.
As well as the immediate factors leading to gastro esophageal reflux disease, there are also genetic factors (beyond our control) and several other internal factors and cofactors, that make for a context encouraging GERD. A long-term solution can only come from treating the internal factors primarily responsible for causing GERD.
What do symptoms of acid reflux look like?
Healthy people also get occasional heartburn, and this alone does not mean that you have a gastro esophageal reflux disease. Diagnosis of GERD is typically based on a recurring (twice weekly or more) manifestation of heartburn. Symptoms may be different for some GERD patients, such as chest pains, morning hoarseness or problems swallowing. Other patients experience a sensation of food getting stuck in their throat or choking or stricture. Recurring dry coughs are also symptoms for this last group of patients.
What Are the Dangers of Acid Reflux?
Gastric acid can lead to inflammation of the esophagus over time, and ulcers or bleeding. Tissue damage scars can result in narrowing of the esophagus and problems in swallowing. Some victims develop a condition where cells in the esophageal lining adopt abnormal shapes and colors, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. Protracted Barrett’s esophagus may result in cancer, in particular for adults over 60. Neglecting GERD can have not only disagreeable, perhaps painful symptoms, but can also generate other grave complications.
Possible solutions for acid reflux
Treating acid reflux can be handled in one of three ways: a surgical operation; medicaments available by prescription or over-the-counter; and holistic therapy, using dietary and lifestyle alterations, detox, and specific herbal supplements. In most instances, GERD can be tackled and stopped using natural solutions, without the risks or secondary effects of surgical treatment or prescribed medicaments. This holistic approach is also backed up by a review of recent research that demonstrates that the medical condition of gastroesophageal reflux disease is provoked mostly by factors of diet, lifestyle and behavior.
Considered in the context of conventional medicine that compares it to other similar recurring conditions, gastroesophageal reflux disease is to be treated by constantly ingesting drugs, antacids and over the counter medicament that only bring temporary relief. But this is not the full answer to GERD.
Seen from the holistic viewpoint, gastroesophageal reflux disease is the warning sign for a major lack of internal balance that must be resolved. Alternative treatments for acid reflux therefore (homeopathic programs, herbal remedies, diet and lifestyle modifications and detoxification), by treating the deep internal cause of GERD, are implicitly superior compared to conventional answers that only bring superficial relief.