GERD also known as, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a chronic digestive disorder. In normal digestive function the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) contracts in such a way to keep food contents and acid from spilling out of the stomach and back up into the esophagus. The severity of GERD is directly related to the function of the weakened LES muscle. Other contributing factors include, the type/amount of stomach content brought up and the neutralizing effects of saliva.
Although considered to be a chronic condition, it is very common as close to 5 million Canadians suffer at least once a week from the effects. In recent years, the rate of children diagnosed with GERD has continued to rise as childhood obesity soars. Most often GERD can be reversed through a series of lifestyle changes, although more serious cases may require further medical attention.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can vary in individuals, although the most common are as follows:
- Acidic taste (acid reflux)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling of food re-entering the mouth
- Heartburn (burning behind the breastbone)
- Sore throat
How does GERD develop?
Frequent bouts of acid reflux can lead to the development of GERD. When the lower sphincter of the esophagus relaxes at the wrong time stomach acid is able to spill into the esophagus causing heartburn and other symptoms of reflux. Frequent episodes of acid reflux eventually results in the development of GERD.
Hiatal hernias are also commonly associated with GERD although not all with GERD have a hiatal hernia. When part of the stomach protrudes through the abdomen and hiatus into the chest, a hiatal hernia develops. Usually, this occurs when the LES moves above the diaphragm during digestion and reflux. The diaphragm is responsible for keeping the sphincter closed when necessary, so when the placement of these muscles is altered unwanted symptoms result.
How Can I treat GERD?
Not only is GERD preventable, but it can be treated in most cases as well. The primary focus of treatment is to reduce the rate of reflux and damage to the esophageal lining. The treatment protocol is simply a series of basic rituals for overall healthy living. If you are seeking a healthier lifestyle these initial changes are a great way to get started
- Quit Smoking
Studies have proven that cigarette smoking contributes to a weakened lower esophageal sphincter.
- Portion control
Many North Americans have a skewed perception of portion sizes. On average, most individuals tend to consume meals 2-3 times larger in size than a true serving. Overeating contributes to weight-gain which onsets many other negative health conditions in the body. Controlling portions results in weight-loss and in turn reduces heartburn.
- Clean-up your diet
Eliminating alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, citrus, greasy foods, mint, spicy foods and tomatoes is necessary to reduce the rate of reflux. These foods promote reflux which is why eliminating them is the best option. If riding these foods out of your diet completely is too difficult at the moment, minimizing consumption rate is a great start.
Colonics is a great addition to any health regime. Reflux is associated with constipation and the buildup of toxins from fatty foods. When the colon is impacted with old fecal matter the pressure inside the abdominal cavity builds. An increased pressure causes food to travel back up through the digestive tract causing reflux symptoms.
Colonics (Colon hydrotherapy) is a gentle yet effective way to help reduce constipation by cleansing out the colon. For the average healthy individual about 4 sessions is necessary for a full cleanse. However, most individuals do suffer from constipation or other unwanted digestive health conditions so the number of sessions needed to cleanse the length in its’ entirety does vary.
Aside from reducing constipation, colonics also aids in the weight-loss process. Yes, this is due to the elimination of undigested matter, but also a clean and healthy colon allows your body to better absorb vital nutrients from a healthy diet.
Posted by Meaghan LaFranca, M.Sc, Nutritionist, Colon Therapist