Why Do I Have Heartburn?

Why Do I Have Heartburn?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as heartburn or acid reflux, is a chronic digestive condition that has increasingly become a problem for people over the last decade.  According to a 2014 review in Healthline, up to 30% of the U.S. population currently suffers from GERD. In addition, more young people are beginning to struggle with this condition as well.

Symptoms 

Although the most common GERD symptom is a burning sensation that arises from the abdomen into the chest, many people have reported that they don’t experience “heartburn.”  Some suffer from a sore or irritated throat, an acidic taste in the mouth, dental erosion, a chronic cough, shortness of breath at night, bloating or blenching, etc.  

Causes And Improper Treatment 

GERD is commonly treated by anti-acid medication, such as Nexium or Zantac, or a neutralizer, such as TUMS.  These common treatments have led to the misconception that GERD is caused by acid reflux or too much stomach acid production. 

First of all, the reflux is actually a gate malfunction problem.  If the gate is properly closed, there is no reflux regardless of how much stomach acid production there is.  The gate between the esophagus and the stomach is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It is made of smooth muscle from the diaphragm.  There are quite a number of factors that cause relaxation of LES, such as incoming food, posture after eating, food allergies, inflammation of the esophagus, toxins released from bacteria, obesity, pregnancy, etc.  

Second, not all reflux is acidic.  Some people experience bile salt backflow into the esophagus, which is alkalized.  

The job of anti-acid mediation is to either turn down the production of stomach acid or to neutralize the acid.  It does not help close the gate and is not effective for a reflux that is not acidic. This is the reason why anti-acid medication doesn’t work for everyone and can even make symptoms worse for some. 

Treatment 

To treat GERD properly, your doctor should investigate all of the potential factors that can cause a malfunctioned LES.  Some people can benefit from simple dietary changes and digestive support, while others may require surgical treatment to correct a severe hiatal hernia.  Identifying the underlying cause is the key. If you have struggled with GERD for a long time, seek out an experienced doctor for proper treatment.