Acid reflux, heartburn, Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) and oesophagitis are all different aspects of the same condition. The symptoms can vary from no symptoms at all to very severe symptoms which affects lifestyle. Acid reflux is a major symptom of (GORD) and heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux.
Heartburn is the burning sensation felt in the middle of the chest and it feels like a burning chest pain and pressure which starts behind the breastbone and travels up to the neck and throat. It leaves a bitter and sour taste in the mouth and back of the throat.
The fundamental cause of GORD is gastric acid entering the oesophagus and the erosion and inflammation of the oesophageal lining.
Gastric acid pH value must remain at an optimum during digestion for the process to work most effectively whilst protecting the body. Sometimes, due to diseases or conditions caused by other factors in the body (such as SIBO or H. pylori for example) or external factors (such as foods and medications), the gastric juice is affected and can become too acidic or not acidic enough.
At lower pH (acidic), pathogens are killed off and essential substances are absorbed more easily. If the stomach is not acidic enough, absorption and digestion of food takes longer. As the food hangs around in the stomach for longer, it increases the pressure of the stomach to be higher than in the oesophagus, thereby pushing the contents back up into the oesophagus.
Alternatively, excessive acid production in the stomach can also have a negative effect, causing acid reflux. The body and its cells have a very complicated yet simple and effective process with safeguards in place for ensuring that the right amount of acid is secreted to maintain the optimal pH level to aid digestion whilst protecting the body from pathogens. When these mechanisms and safeguards are interrupted by external factors, this is where the problems arise and lead to complications and diseases.
The external factors which throw the pH level out of balance are caused mainly by the increase of histamine in the body and/or by excess ammonium in the stomach (such as in cases with H. pylori). Whereas histamine is crucial and essential for the digestive process and acid secretion, excesses of it can have a negative effect on the balance. Excess histamine could be as a result of ingested foods/drink, as a result of an immune response to other conditions that the body is fighting, or could be down to the body’s insufficient production of diamine oxidase which is needed to break down the histamine in food.
A simple soft test for stomach acid can be conducted to see if it is high or low. Diet changes include reducing/avoiding chocolate, mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, citrus, caffeinated and fizzy drinks, alcohol, processed meats, spicy foods and fatty foods to name a few. Lifestyle changes may include not eating late at night, not eating just before exercise, eating smaller and more frequent meals, not eating too quickly, exercise for weight loss, reducing stress and getting adequate sleep.
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