Heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD. Millions and millions of people have it. It’s so common that most people accept it as normal or pay the price for eating something. But reflux is your body screaming at you that something is wrong!
It turns out that having reflux over time can cause some pretty serious issues. The crazy thing is that the medications available for it cause you even more harm, even though it feels like it’s making you better.
In this article, we’ll talk about what exactly is happening in your body when you have reflux and how to get rid of it. We’ll also give you tips on preventing reflux in the first place!
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux or heartburn is a burning feeling in your chest that can move up your neck and throat. You may also have a bitter or sour taste in the back of your throat. Moreover, it can last from a few minutes to several hours. It often feels worse after eating or when you lie down too quickly.
Some people may experience it once in a blue moon. However, others may have it so often that it is chronic, and then it’s called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). If you leave it untreated, it’s not only uncomfortable. It can also cause ulcers, bleeding, and esophageal cancer. Hence, it should never be ignored.
Why Does It Happen?
When you eat something, the food goes down a long tube that connects your mouth and stomach called the esophagus. At the bottom of the esophagus is a valve that opens to let food in and closes to keep the stomach contents down. Inside your stomach, there are a lot of acids that help break down your food. Your stomach can handle the acid—it has a special lining so the acid doesn’t harm it. However, your esophagus does not have that lining and cannot handle that stomach acid. So if stomach acid gets into the esophagus, that’s painful and is called heartburn or reflux.
Heartburn happens when there is too much acid or bile in your stomach, which then backs up into your esophagus—causing pain in your chest and throat as well as burning in your upper abdomen. It can feel like indigestion or even an ulcer!
What’s The Problem With Taking Reflux Medication?
Most people think that reflux is caused by too much acid in their stomachs. It makes sense, right? When you feel the burn of acid, it’s natural to want to reduce the amount of acid in your belly.
And that’s what people do: they look for something that calms down the acid, and their pain goes away, and all is right with the world, right? Wrong!
Reflux doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your body. It means your body is calling for your attention. Your symptoms are basically warning signs. They’re not supposed to be suppressed. Instead, they’re supposed to be heard and addressed.
The second issue is that reflux isn’t a problem of too much acid. It’s a problem of too little acid—something most people don’t realize until they learn more about how their bodies work.
And the third problem? The medications we use for reflux actually cause us harm! When they first came out, doctors were advised to use them for short term only—but that has completely gone out the window, and now we have people on them for years at a time!
What Is The Root Cause Of Acid Reflux?
As you know, heartburn is the burning sensation in your chest that you get after eating certain foods or drinking too much. It’s often caused by stomach acid refluxing up into your esophagus, but that doesn’t mean all reflux is caused by too much acid.
This happens because there’s too much pressure on the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) from the abdomen, pushing up on it. It’s kind of like when you’re driving, and your gas pedal is stuck—your car pushes down on the pedal and keeps opening up, even though you want it to stay closed.
The LES is like a gate between your stomach and esophagus; it opens to let food in and closes after each meal to prevent anything else from coming back up. If you’ve ever tried to open a door with someone pushing against it from behind, you know how hard it can be!
So, what causes the pressure on this sphincter?
Eating Before Bed
When you eat before going to sleep, your stomach needs time to digest the food before it enters your esophagus. When you lie down after eating, gravity pulls on your stomach and intestines, pushing them up toward your esophagus. This can cause pressure on the valve, preventing acid from entering your LES. This pressure can cause acid to leak out into your esophagus and irritate it, causing heartburn.
Eating With A Full Stomach
Eating more when you’re already full is a big cause of heartburn. You might think you can eat as much as you want, but that’s not true. Eating too much and fast causes your stomach to stretch out and causes pressure on the LES. The acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes heartburn.
One of the most common causes of heartburn is being overweight. This is especially true if you have a big belly because fat pushes your stomach into your LES.
In other words, if you have a big belly, there’s more room for food to sit in your upper digestive tract. That means more acid is moving back into your esophagus, which can cause heartburn.
This is another common cause of heartburn. During pregnancy, the growing fetus puts pressure on your stomach and causes it to push into your LES. This can lead to indigestion and heartburn.
Your Body’s Reaction To Stress
You’ve probably heard that stress can cause heartburn—and it’s true. When you’re stressed out, your body doesn’t focus as much on digestion. This means food sits in the belly longer and creates pressure upwards. But did you know that chronic stress can also affect how sensitive your esophagus is? Studies have shown that when we’re stressed, our esophagus becomes more sensitive.
Food sensitivities can be caused by things like gluten or dairy and are often an issue for people who have digestive issues. If you notice that certain foods make you bloated, gassy, or have gas pains after eating them, that could mean you’re sensitive to one of those ingredients!
The next thing to look at is sugar intake—particularly sugar-loaded starches like white bread and pasta. Eating too much sugar can cause fermentation in the intestines and malabsorption of carbohydrates, producing gas in the intestines and creating pressure on the LES. This can lead to heartburn symptoms if left untreated!
Medications are one of the main causes of heartburn. Some medications, like calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and certain antidepressants, can affect the LES.
Stomach acid is a good thing. It kills off harmful bacteria and other things you might swallow, like small particles of food. But if your stomach acid is too strong, it can irritate the esophagus.
H pylori is a bacteria that lives in your stomach and can cause ulcers and other stomach problems. It can also cause heartburn. It’s one of the most common causes of heartburn and acid reflux.
The Key To Acid Reflux
You can take steps to reduce your risk of developing heartburn. But if you’re already experiencing symptoms, you can do things to make them go away faster.
Find The Root Cause
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from heartburn, you know it can be a real pain in the neck—literally. But did you know there is a way to stop this condition without relying on medication?
The problem is that most people treat heartburn as a symptom rather than as the problem itself. They take antacids, but they don’t look at what’s causing the heartburn in the first place.
The key to treating heartburn is reducing the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Once that pressure is relieved, the body will produce enough stomach acid to keep your digestion healthy and regular. The best way to do this is through lifestyle changes and avoiding your triggers.
Taper The Drug
If you’re on an acid-blocking drug and want to come off it, here are some things to keep in mind.
Often, if people are on these drugs and want to come off them, they can do everything we mention. But even if you stop the drug, you will have problems. And here’s why: we get something called rebound acid production. So when you stop an acid-blocking drug, your body will rebound and produce way more acid. So that’ll make you think you need to take the drug again.
The best way around this is to fix all the root causes we just talked about and then slowly taper the drug—if they’re taking an 80-milligram dose, for example, you might reduce it by 80 milligrams each day until it’s gone completely from your system.
If you’re having trouble with heartburn, there’s a supplement you can try, these includes:
Licorice or De Glyceride Licorice (DGL) is an extract of the root of licorice plants, which helps heal and soothe the gut lining. You can chew two or three tablets before you eat and before bed.
Glutamine is also helpful for heartburn sufferers. It helps repair the gut lining and helps to reduce inflammation in the digestive system. It also reduces acid production in your stomach, which can help prevent acid from backing up into your esophagus and causing heartburn.
Magnesium relaxes the digestive system and helps control spasms in the esophagus that sometimes cause heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Zinc activates enzymes that help break down food and aid digestion; it also helps prevent infection in your intestines by killing bacteria there, such as H. pylori bacteria that cause ulcers inside your stomach or small intestine (perforation).
The problem behind reflux is not that your body produces too much acid. It’s that the acid is in the wrong place. Remember how we said there’s a sphincter between your stomach and esophagus? Well, this sphincter controls what goes where—and if it experiences pressure, things can go wrong. The only way to get over heartburn is to fix the issue that’s causing the pressure.
That’s why reflux and GERD medications don’t work long-term: they only mask symptoms while they continue to damage your esophagus. Your best bet is to identify what’s causing your symptoms, avoid those triggers, and ensure you’re getting enough water—and if you need medication, taper off it as soon as possible.