Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a disorder in the lower esophageal sphincter that allows the acidic digestive juices and food in the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus. The most common symptom is burning pain from behind the breastbone moving up towards the throat. GERD is widely believed by medical professionals to be caused by either a weak or malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter or very high volume of acid used in the digestion of food in the stomach, or both.
Treatment for GERD
The common treatment methods for GERD try to address the production of too much digestive acid, and decrease the amount of reflux and the damage to the esophagus lining from refluxed materials.
- Antacids are medications to help neutralize the acid in the stomach and esophagus and control heartburn. Nonprescription antacids may provide partial or temporary relief. Antacids when used with foaming agents, help prevent acid reflux from the stomach by blanketting the top of the stomach with foam that act as barriers.
When used long-term, antacids can have side effects such as diarrhea, altered metabolism of calcium in the body and excessive buildup of magnesium, which can have serious implications for kidney disease patients. A doctor’s advice should be sought when the use of antacids for more than two weeks is deemed necessary.
- Medications to stop or inhibit acid production. Drugs described as ‘Proton Pump Inhibitors’ were developed and are being prescribed to stop the production of acid. Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Zoton and Losec are common examples of this type of drugs. Another group of drugs called ‘H2 Blockers’ are also recommended to reduce acid in the stomach for digestion.
The use of these synthetic drugs changes the natural process of the body and presents adverse consequences. Acid needs to be produced by the body also for the metabolism of calcium for stronger bones. A study involving 135,000 people 50 years and older revealed that patients taking Proton Pump Inhibitors in high doses for over one year have 2.6 times higher chances of having broken hips.
- Dietary changes. This involves:
- avoiding foods and beverages that have been identified to weaken the lower esophageal sphincter including fried fatty foods, chocolate, peppermint, alcoholic beverages and coffee.
- avoiding foods and beverages known to cause irritation to the damaged lining of the esophagus including citrus fruits, citrus juices, pepper and tomato products.
- eating dinner at least two hours before bedtime to help lessen reflux, allow the gastric acid to decrease and let the stomach to partially empty.
- decreasing the size of food portions every mealtime.
- Lifestyle changes.
- Losing weight is recommended as being overweight can worsen the symptoms of GERD.
- The patients are advised to quit smoking. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Chronic and long-term GERD can erode the gastroesophageal membranes and turn the cells into cancer. This is when surgery to remove the cancer cells and cut out the affected part in the organs comes in as a last option.
Chiropractic Care for GERD
Chiropractic care offers a natural, drug-free and non-invasive approach to treating GERD.
Chiropractic holds that a healthy nervous system is the key to the normal functioning of all body organs and that this comes from a properly aligned, subluxation-free spine. Abnormalities and misalignments or subluxations in the spine can put significant pressure on the spinal nerves and hinder their activities, which can cause disturbances of body organ function, including that of the stomach. When these abnormalities go untreated, the affected organ will be in a dysfunction and eventually, in a state of disease. Most of the time, the physical causes we attribute the disease to are actually effects of abnormalities in the nervous system. It is important to address the underlying causes of the disease, as chiropractic treatment does.
Recent studies show that some spinal abnormalities such as lumbar kyphosis, the abnormal lower spine curvature and increased hyper-kyphosis, the curvature of the mid-back spine have significant effects on the development of GERD and its symptoms.
Chiropractic care has resulted to significant reduction in the symptoms of the disease for many GERD sufferers. Chiropractic realignment of the spine of these patients helped decrease the pressure on the their internal organs allowing freer flow of nerve energy throughout their body. The normal gastroesopageal function is restored.