If you’ve lived with acid reflux for a while now, you probably already consider yourself an expert on the condition. You’ve scoured the internet to learn the causes, diagnosis and treatment plans for acid reflux. But here are 10 surprising facts about acid reflux that you probably didn’t know!
Most people assume that acid reflux is caused by too much stomach acid. After all, that’s why the doctor prescribes acid-suppressing drugs, right? Wrong! On the contrary, acid reflux is caused by too little gastric acid.
While heartburn and GERD are caused when stomach acid splashes back into the esophagus, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s TOO MUCH acid, or that suppressing stomach acid with drugs will relieve those symptoms. By suppressing gastric acid production, you make digestion harder because our stomach needs acid to break down food and absorb nutrients.
Read any heartburn guide and it’ll tell you that avoiding spicy food is the key to keeping reflux symptoms at bay. Turns out, that’s not necessarily true. Studies stress that changing your diet may not always be necessary for dealing with acid reflux.
However, it’s important that you find out whether spicy food is a trigger for acid reflux for you or not through trial and error. For some people, chilies and cayenne pepper can irritate the gut lining and trigger reflux, but that is not necessarily true for everyone.
According to Statistical Brief On Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 conducted by Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, the total number of inpatient hospital discharges with a secondary GERD diagnosis increased by a whopping 216%.
Among age groups, the largest increase in discharges with any primary or secondary GERD diagnosis between 1998 and 2005 was for patients age 18–34, increasing at a rate of 273%. In fact, primary GERD diagnosis rose by 84% between 1998 and 2005 in children aged between 2 to 17 years as well.
You may not know this, but quite a few medications can cause heartburn. The most common offenders are:
Studies have found the elevating the head of your bed can bring relief from acid reflux symptoms. When your head is raised high, stomach acid can’t flow back up into the esophagus. If it’s not possible to raise the headboard, try sleeping propped up on a wedge pillow for the same effect. Some studies show that sleeping on the left reduces incidences of reflux. Experts believe sleeping on the right increases transient LES relaxations that are associated with reflux.
Otherwise known as GERD or Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder, this is not the only type of reflux disease.
“Throatburn Reflux” or Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) occurs when gastric contents back up into the esophagus, and creep up into the larynx, bronchi, lungs, or sinuses. There is also a third kind of reflux disease known as Non-erosive Reflux Disease (NERD), which is a subcategory of GERD with similar symptoms but no esophageal erosions are seen via conventional endoscopy.
PPIs are acid-suppressing medications that do more harm than good, especially when used for an indefinite period. Think of them as a band-aid – they mask the symptoms of acid reflux rather than curing it. Once the medication cures the pain of acid reflux, the patient will rarely change their lifestyle and continued damage to the LES ensues. An effective long-term GERD treatment plan MUST be built upon positive diet and lifestyle changes to prevent further damage and reverse the condition for long-term relief from reflux disease.
Smoking, lack of sleep, anxiety, and even second-hand smoke can also cause acid reflux. According to studies, nighttime reflux can lead to sleep disturbance and sleep disturbance may further aggravate GERD by prolonged acid contact time and heightened sensory perception. Researchers have also found that reflux patients under stress reported more painful symptoms related to acid reflux, even though there is no increase in gastric acid. Studies have also linked cigarette smoking to worsened reflux disease as tobacco smoke irritates the stomach lining and lowers esophageal sphincter pressure, triggering reflux.
Yes, we don’t think PPIs should be prescribed unless diet and lifestyle changes fail to show improvement because PPIs come with some serious side effects. They will rob your body of essential nutrients and lead to calcium, Vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium deficiencies. They also disrupt gut health by killing off healthy bacteria while at the same time encouraging bad bacterial growth in the gut and intestines. They have been linked to dementia and long-term use can also increase risk of chronic kidney disease.