The human digestive system is one of the fascinating designs of the human body. The actions of digestion and absorption that sustains and maintains life are only made possible through a Devine Creator. In the event, there is an interruption in any of the physiological processes, the body strives to maintain internal stability, which brings us to the Burning Facts of G.E.R.D.
Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (G.E.R.D.) is a digestive disease involving the initial stages of digestion. Digestion starts when food enters the mouth. The saliva moistens the food to allow the teeth to chew, forming a ball or bolus. Next, the muscles began to seal off the airways as the bolus propels down the pipeline of the throat known as the Esophagus. The lower end of the Esophagus leads directly into the stomach or Gastric area. Simultaneously as bolus enters the stomach, a group of sphincter muscles forms a seal to prevent a back-flow of Gastric contents. These sphincter muscles are known as the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (L.E.S.).
It is important to note, once bolus enters the Gastric area (stomach), it mixes with hydrochloric acid. The hydrochloric acid has a pH of 1.5 to 3.5, strong enough to dissolve metal and tooth enamel. The function of the high pH is to protect the body against bacterial and viral infections, and digestion. Due to the high pH, the surface areas of the stomach require protection. Thus, there is a coating surrounding the surface of the gastric region, which under normal conditions, will not allow the acid to penetrate.
G.E.R.D. occurs when the L.E.S. does not seal or close properly, allowing for the Gastric content (mixed with acids) to flow back or Reflux into the Esophagus, this action is Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disorder. Contributing factors responsible for malfunctioning L.E.S. are pregnancy, overweight, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, stress, and certain specific medications.
Feeling the Burn: back-flow of stomach acids irritates and damages the lining of the Esophageal wall, causing an uncomfortable burning sensation many refer to as heartburn. Heartburn is the most detrimental common symptom of G.E.R.D. Consequently, the consumption of certain foods is the primary cause of heartburn. If you have issues with heartburn or G.E.R.D., you may want to consider the following recommendations:
- Avoid the following foods which, will weaken the L.E.S. muscles resulting in heartburn.
Chocolate, peppermint, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, fatty greasy, and fried foods.
- Eliminate Foods that Irritate the Esophagus such as:
Citrus fruits, juices, tomatoes, and tomato-based products, chili peppers, and black pepper (spicy foods).
- Eat five or six small meals vs. three large ones.
- Maintain a healthy body weight if possible.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing-relieves pressure on the stomach area.
- Do not lie down for at least 3 hours after a meal.
- Drink liquids between meals instead of with meals.
- Avoid lying down, bending over or straining after eating.
Heartburn and GERD are severe conditions where lifestyle changes are necessary, and treatment may include a consultation with your physician for medication. The consistent insults of acidic reflux into the Esophagus is severe and without treatment may lead to Barrett’s Esophagus. Barrett’s Esophagus is the result of the body’s attempt to protect itself from the acids by thickening the esophageal linings. The newly formed thicken esophagus is well-known as Barrett’s syndrome.
Ultimately, evidence-based research reports Barrett’s syndrome increases the risk of developing adenocarcinoma, a life-threatening form of esophageal cancer. Never ignore the Burn.