My husband has a pretty good appetite, but lately he’s been complaining of heartburn and feeling “full” after eating only a few bites. And he felt worse when would lie down. Initially I assumed it was just acid reflux- a very common problem; but that was only a symptom of what was at the root of his problem.
If you’ve never experienced acid reflux you’re one of the lucky ones. But if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans that suffer from occasional or regular heartburn, you know that it can be anywhere from mildly unpleasant to excruciatingly painful.
So, what is acid reflux and what can you do to remedy the problem? That’s what today’s post is all about.
Acid reflux is a dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (which is supposed close as soon as food passes through) that allows stomach acids to come up through your esophagus and into your chest. Your stomach has a protective lining that prevents stomach acids from eating away at the stomach muscle; unfortunately your esophagus isn’t lucky enough to have a protective lining.
And that burning sensation you feel in your chest or throat is your stomach acid eating away at your esophagus.
Long term acid reflux can lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and other more serious problems like hiatal hernia- which is exactly what my husband has.
Some of the risk factors associated with developing a hiatal hernia include; high levels of inflammation in the gut, a poor diet, decreased abdominal muscle tone, being overweight, straining to push bowel movements, chronic or strong coughing, genetic factors and injury to the diaphragm or abdomen.
The sliding hiatal hernia is the most common type; where the stomach intermittently slides into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm. While that sounds pretty painful; if the hernia is small most people don’t know they have one; unless their doctor finds one. Larger hernias are a different story; they cause heartburn, belching, bad breath, gum irritation, bloating and a sour taste in the back of the mouth.
In severe cases, Laparoscopic surgery is sometimes needed especially if part of the stomach moves into the hiatus which cuts off blood flow to the stomach. Or you can choose to find an alternative practitioner who manipulates the stomach (non-invasively by hand) and push it back to the correct position.
Although a hernia will not repair itself with rest, you can manage your symptoms by making some lifestyle changes. If you’re battling constipation; add fiber filled cruciferous veggies like broccoli or Brussels sprouts to your diet. Just make sure you’re drinking enough water as these high fiber veggies can cause bloating.
Adding supplements such as pro-biotics, slippery elm, Aloe Vera juice, licorice and L-glutamine all promote and sooth the digestive tract. And strengthening the abdominal muscles can help reduce your risk of developing a hiatal hernia.
Oh and if you have a chronic cough from smoking: stop smoking.