Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease (GERD) or acid reflux occurs when liquid or food from the stomach regurgitates into the esophagus. This liquid may contain stomach acids and bile. In some cases, the regurgitated stomach contents can cause inflammation, irritation, and damage to the esophagus.

Did you know that the digestive tract is one continuous pathway starting at the mouth and ending at the lower part of the bowel (i.e. the rectum)? The digestive process begins when food enters the mouth. When a person begins to chew food, digestive enzymes in the saliva break the food down before it is swallowed. The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. The stomach contains harsh enzymes and gastric acid that further break down food so it can be absorbed by the body.

What causes it?

It is unknown exactly what causes acid reflex. Several factors, including hiatal hernias (when the stomach pushes up through a hole in the diaphragm muscle), abnormally weak contractions of the lower esophageal sphincter (the smooth muscle found at the end of the esophagus), and abnormal emptying of the stomach after a meal, have been associated with it.

It is extremely important not to ignore symptoms of acid reflux. Long term irritation to the lining of the esophagus can lead to a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. About 10-15% of people with chronic reflux develop this pre-cancerous condition which can lead to the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma – a serious, potentially fatal cancer of the esophagus.

Finding a solution.

Conventional approaches:

Antacid medication is typically prescribed for the relief of heartburn pain. The more common ones include Dexilant, Nexium and Prevacid, which are all in the class of PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors).

These can have many side effects and longterm consequences, including those related to the decreased absorption of important nutrients such as iron and calcium (leading to an increased risk of hip, wrist, and spine fractures). Use of some antacid medications may also increase the risk of pneumonia and kidney disease. Pepcid AC, in those with impaired kidney function can affect the central nervous system and may result in anxiety, depression, insomnia or drowsiness, and mental disturbances.

Getting to the root cause:

The first step to treating acid reflux is to look for and identify your key triggers.  Though people with reflux often respond very well to dietary changes, it is also important to examine whether or not you have any food intolerances.  Even though you think you may eat a healthy diet, it may not be that healthy if it includes foods you are sensitive or allergic to.  Also, do you have poorly controlled stress? This can either increase or decrease the amount of stomach acid your body produces.  Determining what your unique triggers are will get you one step closer to knowing which treatment option(s) will work best.

Our Integrative Approach involves an assessment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.  They will run any necessary diagnostic tests required to identify what is aggravating your condition. Following that, they will formulate a treatment plan that includes nutritional counselling, natural supplement recommendations and/or lifestyle modifications to help create better digestive health and eliminate or reduce unpleasant symptoms and medications.

Read on for more detailed information about our integrative digestive treatment plans:

KIH Naturopathic Doctors:

Treatments are performed in the clinic by one of the below Naturopathic Doctors.

Dr. Sarah Tayebi, ND
Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Susan Slipacoff, ND
Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Jessica Cardona, ND
Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Natalie Stalteri, ND
Naturopathic Doctor