Oh my GERD – What is it and How Can I Get Rid of it?
Most adults have at least heard of acid reflux, where stomach contents reflux back into the esophagus. But, all too many have the uncomfortable knowledge of actually experiencing it. Does this sound familiar? Maybe it has happened every so often when you have an indulgent meal. Or maybe you experience this more chronically, on a weekly basis, and have been diagnosed with GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, which develops over time as symptoms of acid reflux persist.
No matter the frequency, if you’ve experienced it, the symptoms are hard to forget – harsh burning pain under the ribs, chest pain, and regurgitation most often experienced when going to bed after eating. Those are some harmful contents, with a very acidic pH, irritating the delicate lining of your esophagus. Imagine what that does to your esophagus once, let alone over time, when it happens almost every single day. Oh my GERD!
One major result of acid reflux and GERD is damage to the esophageal sphincter, the one and only blockade that is supposed to prevent things from coming back up in the opposite direction. Even more shocking are some un-thought of, yet very common symptoms, that can be silently damaging this muscle before you’re even aware. If this muscle weakens, there is nothing efficiently holding back the acid from your stomach and causes the more common and aggressive GERD symptoms mentioned earlier.
So, if you could possibly prevent long-term harm, by taking note of some seemingly “regular” symptoms before things get worse, wouldn’t you want to? Here are some of these lesser known symptoms of GERD to consider:
- Belching often
- Sensations of having a lump in your throat (kind of like a pill got stuck)
- Chronic Cough
- Chronic Halitosis (aka – bad breath)
- Chronic Laryngitis
When you think about each of these symptoms, they don’t seem like a huge issue, right? Because who doesn’t get some bad breath after eating onions, or who doesn’t get some seasonal coughing with allergies floating around? Maybe you’re just fighting off a cold that really just doesn’t want to let go and you are losing your voice? Or, could you be experiencing these symptoms of GERD almost daily and not have even thought twice about it?
Now that you may be doing some self-reflection, you might think “How do I know if these are harmful symptoms of GERD that I am having, or just random occurrences?” Great question, and often the type of process Functional Medicine (FM) physicians take – why are these symptoms arising, what can be causing them, and how do we fix that root cause without long term prescription treatment with harmful side effects? Our bodies are incredibly smart and know exactly what to do with what we nourish it with. Which makes it all the more important to work WITH what our body is trying to do and decipher the signals it’s giving us so we can truly take care of it rather than trying to silence and suppress those signals.
Here are a few things to consider about your current lifestyle that could be causing the previous mentioned symptoms, and begin deciphering whether or not you have a bigger underlying issue going on, and if you may need to seek proper holistic treatment.
Top Contributing Factors to development of GERD:
- Genetics – do many of your family members have acid reflux or GERD?
- Tobacco use
- Slow gastric emptying caused by frequent consumption of:
- Fatty meals
- Increased Acid Secretion caused by frequent consumption of
- Spicy and acidic foods such as peppers, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate
- Large amounts simple carbohydrates, and processed fats
- Consuming too large meals, too quickly
- Insufficient chewing
- Eating too close to bedtime
- High BMI
- Psychological Stress
How many of these stood out to you, a few? Many? The great news is, that most of these contributing factors are modifiable, and the Functional Medicine approach is quite similar to conventional medicine, with one major difference – addressing the root cause and getting the body back to functioning naturally as it should, without long-term prescription treatment and negative side effects. The 4 main targets of Functional Medicine treatment are – reduce symptoms, decrease inflammation, promote healing by eliminating exacerbating factors, and support the body’s natural defenses (including that esophageal sphincter).
Natural methods of reducing symptoms, and reducing inflammation, rather than taking a proton pump inhibitor, or a Tum’s, could include some herbal remedies, often prescribed short-term in specific doses for optimal healing. Such as licorice root, or chamomile, even melatonin – not only are they anti-inflammatory, but they also support tissue health as well. With further help from an Functional Medicine team, moderating your consumption of dietary factors leading to acid reflux and GERD, can drastically improve symptoms and support healing.
At STRONGLIFE Functional Medicine in Lithia, FL, Dr. Justin Scott can help you address any underlying issues, whether you realize they’re there or not, and improve your overall health
“I hope that you found these tips as valuable as my patients have over the years. If you’re interested in a patient-centered process that takes into account all aspects that affect your health, then I would encourage to visit our website at www.stronglifefunctionalmedicine.com to see how we help our patients improve their health and to find if you are a good candidate for a Functional Medicine approach.”
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