Acid Reflux & Heartburn
Signs and Symptoms
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is often times referred to as "acid reflux" or "heartburn." GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus and may produce the following symptoms:
- burning sensation in the chest
- sour taste in the mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- dry cough
- regurgitation of foods
- sensation of a lump in your throat
The Medical Approach
There are several types of medical treatment for GERD, including the following:
Antacids: These drugs such as Maalox, Tums, or Rolaids will neutralize acid in the stomach, and provide quick relief. Consistent use of these drugs will cause diarrhea or constipation as it interferes with the proper breakdown of food.
H 2 Receptor Blockers: these drugs, including Pepcid, and Zantac inhibit the cells that create acid, and create a low acid environment in the stomach for a 12 hour period. These medications can also cause digestive issues in the long term.
Proton pump inhibitors: These medication, such as Prevacid or Prilosec are also designed to inhibit the cells that create acid, but do so at an even higher rate, for up to 24 hours. The same risks of permanent digestive issue exists from interfering with this process.
The Non-Medical Approach
The non-medical approach to treating GERD primarily consists of lifestyle modifications, such as:
- maintain a healthy weight
- avoid certain foods such as fatty or fried foods, alcohol, or acidic foods
- eat smaller meals
- avoid laying down immediately after a meal
- don't smoke
Some alternative medicine approaches include herbal remedies such as licorice, slippery elm, or chamomile teas.
The Chiropractic Approach
GERD has been treated for years as an "overproduction of acid" disease, when, in reality, the condition is an issue involving the function of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. This specialized muscle is the key to stopping acid from bubbling into the esophagus, and is controlled by the fibers of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve fibers pass very close to a bone in the spine which is commonly misaligned, and when it is misaligned can put direct pressure on these fibers. This phenomenon is also called a subluxation. This subluxation may then cause dysfunction in the esophageal function, leading to reflux. Chiropractors can identify this issue and reduce its effect using chiropractic adjustments.