Seven percent of Americans suffer from a disorder in the stomach and esophagus called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They experience heartburn, chest pain or belching after a meal, the most common symptoms of this disorder.
GERD is more prevalent among adults in the 20 to 40 age group. However, it is alarming that GERD symptoms are being noticed even among children.
What Causes GERD?
In a normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter – which acts as a barrier between your stomach and esophagus – opens to allow the passage of food to your stomach and closes to prevent partially digested food and gastric juices to go back up into the esophagus. Medical experts believe that the likely causes of GERD are:
- A weak lower esophageal sphincter
- Inappropriate relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter
- Too much acid in the stomach to digest the food.
GERD can often be triggered by:
- Fried fatty foods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Heavy meals
Treatment and Care Options for GERD
Diet and lifestyle changes and non-medical options recommended in the care of GERD include:
- Avoid foods and beverages that trigger the symptoms.
- Lose weight, particularly when obese or overweight.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and caffeine.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat small meals frequently.
- Take probiotics supplements
- Avoid exercise immediately after meals
- Wait at least three hours after a meal before lying down.
Doctors recommend the following in the treatment of GERD:
- Antacids to neutralize the gastric acid and relieve the symptoms
- Drugs to stop or inhibit the production of acid in the stomach
- Surgery when all other options prove ineffective
The failure to eliminate the cause of GERD can lead to more serious health conditions like esophageal cancers and ulcers.
Chiropractic Care for GERD
People typically visit chiropractors for the treatment of health conditions such as back and neck pain and other direct neuromusculoskeletal issues. Recently, the number of people seeking out chiropractic treatment for other ailments is increasing. In fact, patients who refer gastrointestinal cases to their chiropractic doctors for treatment account for 10.3 percent of all chiropractic patients.
Abnormal spinal conditions have been found to have impacts on GERD occurrence. In recent studies, the combination of lumbar kyphosis – the abnormal spine curvature – and weak back muscles have been determined to significantly affect the presence of GERD. Another spinal condition described as increased hyper-kyphosis – curvature of the thoracic-mid back – was also found to cause or contribute to the symptoms of GERD. These two conditions can put pressure on the stomach and the esophageal system. When the pressure becomes so severe, it can cause the stomach to be displaced downward that can lead to a condition called hiatal hernia. In many cases the consequence of this condition is an altered alignment of the spinal posture, inhibition of the reflex activity of the stomach-gastric muscle and ultimately, GERD.
The spinal misalignment will put substantial amounts of pressure on the spinal nerves. Since the nervous system has a direct link with all of the body functions, altered nerve activity that results from poor posture, can obviously also lead to impairment of stomach function. Nerve interference is what chiropractors call altered or inhibited nerve function from an abnormal spinal alignment. This nerve interference can reduce the vital nerve energy being supplied to the organs, including the digestive organ.
The most common chiropractic treatments in GERD cases involve spinal manipulative adjustments and posture improvements. Realignment of the spine to its normal condition and improving back muscle strength reduce the pressure on the the body organs and allow the unimpeded flow of nerve energy throughout the body. The normal gastoesophageal function is effectively restored with chiropractic care.