Chronic acid reflux is a very painful and debilitating condition that can have a huge negative impact on the sufferers quality of life. Also known as chronic acid gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, the rates of this condition are rising and are not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon.
It is not uncommon for us to have the occasional bout of acid reflux. Depending on the person, the reflux can lead to heartburn, chest pain or a sore throat. However, when these symptoms become persistent and interfere with your normal day to day life, the condition becomes chronic.
In this article, I want to help you obtain a clearer understanding about the causes of chronic acid reflux, the symptoms, the potential risks involved and what can be done to treat the condition.
What Is Chronic Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a condition were the acid contained in your stomach is regurgitated or refluxes upward into the esophagus. The regurgitated liquid can also contain pepsin and bile. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme produced by your stomach to digest food. The bile is produced by your liver and it helps to break down hard to digest fats.
When the acid, pepsin and bile are exposed to the sensitive lining of the esophagus, it can cause inflammation and lead to a condition called esophagitis.
Another implication of having chronic acid reflux is the length of time the stomach acid remains in your esophagus. With mild acid reflux the acid only remains for a very short time, however with a chronic condition the acid can remain in the esophagus for several hours.
Also, with a chronic condition the acid reflux tends to travel further up the esophagus, where it can inflame your throat and mouth.
When acid reflux becomes chronic the sufferer may need ongoing treatment or at least make a permanent change to their lifestyle. This is especially true, if the person has suffered damage to the lining of the esophagus.
Chronic Acid Reflux Causes
This condition is a complicated and there are a variety of ways that can cause it.
Malfunctioning of The Lower Esophageal Sphincter
One of the most common is caused by a malfunctioning of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES).
The LES is a circular muscle at the bottom of your esophagus, just before the stomach opening. The role of the LES is to act like a one-way valve. Swallowing triggers the LES to open to allow saliva, food and drink to enter the stomach for digestion. Once the contents have entered the stomach the LES is suppose to close shut to prevent any leakage.
However, with chronic acid reflux the LES does not function properly. The muscle can often become over relaxed, meaning it can be easily pushed open or it stays open longer than it should. Transient relaxations of the LES happens when the valve opens without swallowing. These transient relaxations can last for several minutes and by doing so, increases your risk of a reflux.
A hiatal hernia can happen when the upper part of the stomach is pushed upwards and above the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the layer of muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest area. This tends to happen as we age as over 60% of people 65 years and older have a hiatal hernia.
Although a hiatal hernia is not a direct cause of acid reflux it can increase the risk of a reflux. For example, certain people can have a hiatal hernia and not have any symptoms related to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Being overweight can increase your acid reflux. If you are carrying a lot of fat around the abdominal area, this extra weight pushes down on your abdominal area and stomach. This pressure can squeeze the stomach, pushing its contents upwards. This pressure can also push the LES open allowing stomach acid to escape into the esophagus.
Your Diet and Eating Habits
If your eating processed foods, foods containing refined sugar, flour, sodium and preservatives, then your going to suffer more acid reflux. Many of these foods are acid forming and difficult for you to digest. Your stomach needs to increase acid production in order to break down these foods and by doing so, increases the level of acid in your stomach.
The great Indian statesman Ghandi, believed that all good health begins in the mouth. He believed food should be digested in the mouth before it even reaches your stomach. Many of us are not very good at chewing our foods properly. We often chew it quickly and then gulp it down, especially when we’re stressed out. This undigested foods only causes more acid, bloated stomach and indigestion.
I was always guilty of this myself and when I acquired the habit of chewing my food slowly and more often (50 chews before swallowing) I no longer had a problem with indigestion or heartburn.
Eating large meals in one sitting is another common cause of chronic acid reflux. Not only is eating too much unhealthy, it puts stress on your digestion and also increases the volume of acid in your stomach.
Chronic Acid Reflux Symptoms
The most common symptoms associated with chronic acid reflux are heartburn. This is a burning sensation that travels up the chest area. Other symptoms can include sore throat and this can happen when the stomach acid travels up further and inflame the throat and larynx.
Acid reflux back pain can be another symptom however, the pain does not originate from a muscular strain, but as direct result of where the inflammation of the esophagus has occurred, which is the chest area.
Chronic Acid Reflux Risks
If the stomach acid is persistently regurgitated into the esophagus it will inflame lining of the esophagus and cause a condition called esophagitis. This can lead to a more serious condition called Barrett’s Esophagus, if the chronic GERD is not treated.
Barrett’s Esophagus is caused when the lining of the esophagus has been completely stripped a way and exposes the cells underneath to corrosive damage. Cells damaged beyond repair are replaced by newer cells. These new cells have a different cellular structure to the original cells found within the walls of the esophagus.
Clinical studies have revealed that the change in cellular structure may increase the risk – a small risk – of the person with Barrett’s Esophagus, in developing cancer of the esophagus and for this reason regular check ups are required.
Antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors such as Zantac and Prilosec are often prescribed to treat chronic heartburn. These over the counter drugs are designed to reduce or inhibit the production of stomach acid. If they have no or limited effect, surgery procedure called a fundoplication maybe required to tighten the LES.
Chronic Acid Reflux Diet
The key to eating an effective chronic acid reflux diet is avoiding foods that are going to trigger it and introducing foods that are going to improve your digestive health over the long term.
Each one of us is unique and one food that triggers acid reflux in me may not trigger a reflux in you. Identifying those trigger foods that are relevant to you requires experimenting and trial and error.
I recommend you keep a food diary or journal. Use it to record the type of foods you are eating, the time of eating and your reaction to them. In this way, you can narrow down the trigger foods that affect you.
However, I think it would be beneficial to you to list a few of the ‘common suspect’ foods and drinks associated with triggering chronic acid reflux:
- Citrus fruits
- high fat/fried foods – these remain in the stomach longer as the digestion needs to excrete more acid to break them down.
- Spicy foods
- Alcohol – especially beers such as Pils and lagers
The best foods to eat or natural foods and these include raw fruits,vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. They are better eaten in their natural state, but if you have to cook them, its healthier to steam as cooking oil, heated at high temperatures can irritate the lining of the stomach.
Make sure that you eat smaller portions. As a general rule the portions should be no bigger than the size of both your clenched fists. Actually, it is better to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, than to eat three traditionally big meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Stress and anxiousness can make you more prone to acid reflux. Stress tightens the stomach and this can inhibit the production of acid. A lack of acid means the food you eat does not get digested. The undigested food creates pressure forcing the contents of your stomach upwards and into the esophagus.
Avoid this by choosing a time and place where you can quietly relax and enjoy your food.
Again, remember to chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Take the time to become more aware of the flavors and textures in your mouth.
Many of the diets eaten today do not contain natural enzymes and a lack of these enzymes is major contributor to the common digestive disorders afflicting many of us today – including chronic acid reflux.
Enzymes are essential for breaking down food and helping us absorb essential nutrients more effectively. Having more enzymes also means the stomach does not need to excrete as much acid.
But, the fact of the matter is, most people are deficient in these enzymes because their staple diets are dominated by processed foods that are are nutrient deficient. They eat little to no natural foods!
A Digestive System That Is Out Of Balance
Chronic acid reflux as with many digestive disorders is a clear sign your digestive system is out of balance. This means there are more bad bacteria in your gut than good bacteria. Your good bacteria are essential for supporting the three main functions of your digestive system, which are digestion, absorption and elimination.
Lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, taking antibiotics after an infection and eating a poor diet can take its toll on our digestive system. Our unhealthy habits encourage the destruction of our good bacteria, leaving the path clear for pathogenic bacteria, yeast infections and disease causing microbes to spread and take hold.
The best way to combat this invasion is to introduce foods that are high in soluble fibres and prebiotics. These substances create the right environment within your intestinal tract that enables the good bacteria to grow and thrive.
Soluble fibres are like colon cleaners, they absorb water to bulk up their size and as they pass through your system they brush away undigested toxic matter, dead blood cells and cholesterol. This toxic waste is then eliminated from your body.
Prebiotics ferment in both your small and large intestine. This fermentation creates a by product that your good bacteria feed off and this promotes their growth. Foods that are high in soluble fibres and prebiotics are Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, raw onions, wholegrains and kiwifruit.
With chronic acid reflux you should consider taking a quality prebiotic supplement. This will speed up the process of creating the optimal gut environment for your good bacteria to grow. The one we use – with good results – and recommend, is MX Kiwi Biotic.
Its a completely natural prebiotic supplement with no additives, fillers or bulking agents – just 100% pure kiwifruit. As well as the fruit, the pulp, seeds and skin are used. This is important because it is these three parts of the fruit that contain the highest concentrations of prebiotics and soluble fibres.
One key aspect that impressed me about this digestive health supplement is that Maxalife – the creators of MX Kiwi Biotic – use an exclusive and patented process that preserves the kiwifruits digestive enzymes. If your suffering from chronic acid reflux you are most likely lacking in these enzymes.
If you’re tired of sleepless nights and in need of heartburn relief, then simply click here, to find out more about the digestive health benefits of MX Kiwi Biotic.