When we think of acid reflux the thoughts of heartburn or chest pain come to mind. However, you can still have acid reflux without having these common symptoms and this is often referred to as silent acid reflux.
Before I begin, I feel it would be helpful to explain how acid reflux happens in the first place.
Many people think it is a disease, but it is not – it is a condition. The reflux describes the flow of stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus. This can happen when the lower and upper esophageal sphincter fails to function as it should.
The esophageal sphincters are two ring shaped muscles that are located at the bottom and the top of the esophagus. These ringed muscles behave like a valve, they open up to allow food and liquids into your stomach and then shut, to keep them there.
With the most common form of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) the lower sphincter fails to close properly, allowing the stomach acid to flow into the esophagus pipe. The acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus, which causes the reaction of heartburn and chest pain.
With silent acid reflux or to give its medical name – laryngopharyngeal reflux - stomach acid flows up past the upper sphincter, which is situated behind the larynx or voice box. At this level there is a risk the acid could flow into the larynx or the pharynx, which is the area at the back your throat.
As pointed out earlier the key difference with silent acid reflux is the lack of common reflux symptoms such as heartburn. It is not fully clear why this happens however, a plausible reason can be linked to the the lining of esophagus being less sensitive to acid compared to the throat area.
This can mean the liquid from the stomach can have a low acidity level that does not irritate the esophagus, but is acidic enough to inflame the throat area. For this reason the larynx, pharynx,trachea and the lungs can be at risk of damage if the reflux is persistent.
Silent acid reflux in babies and toddlers can be quite common because both the upper and lower sphincter are under developed at this tender age. Babies tend to lie flat on their back, which makes its easier for their stomach contents to flow into the esophagus. However, as they get older both sphincters will fully develop and their acid reflux symptoms will gradually recede.
Silent Acid Reflux Symptoms
We know with this particular condition the common symptoms of GERD do not necessarily appear – but also - the symptoms of silent acid reflux are often mistaken for other health problems too.
Sufferers of silent acid reflux can experience a sore throat or feel a lump in the back of the throat, that never seems to go away. They can also experience a hoarseness in their voice or a persistent cough. These symptoms can become more pronounced in the morning time due to the higher propensity for a reflux to happen during sleep.
With silent GERD the gastric acid can affect the trachea. This is the windpipe that connects the mouth and nose to your lungs. When this happens persistently the acid can inflame this sensitive areas and result in respiratory problems that can include breathing difficulties and a wheezing chest.
Other symptoms can include:
- Bad breath
- Chronic cough
- Persistent clearing of the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
Although acid reflux is not life threatening it can lead to a number of serious health complications. It is important to point out that it takes a lot less for the upper throat area to be damaged than it does the esophagus. For this reason, contact your doctor if any of these symptoms become persistent.
Common acid reflux can often be diagnosed based on the symptoms the patient is suffering from. However, with quiet acid reflux a person may need to undergo a number of tests to determine the true cause. This can include an endoscopy, which involves inserting a small camera down the throat to detect any inflammation or abnormalities.
Another method to diagnose silent acid reflux is with a ph test. This involves a ph sensor being inserted into the nose to the esophagus. The sensor stays there for up to 48 hours to monitor the ph (acidity) levels.
Conventional And Alternative Treatments
Conventual medical advice commonly involves the recommendation of over the counter and prescribed drugs. The most common are antacids that neutralize the acid to relieve the symptoms.
If the antacids have little to no effect, more potent proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers are recommended. These drugs block your stomach cells from producing acid.
These types of drugs only mask the symptoms, they do not address the cause of the problem and for that reason they will never cure your silent acid reflux.
Rather than becoming dependent on quick relief medications why not consider natural remedies for silent acid reflux such as raw apple acid cider vinegar.
The only effective way stop your reflux is to change your lifestyle,especially your diet. There are certain foods that you should avoid and the worse ones contain fat. This means avoiding fried and greasy food.
Caffeine is another acid reflux trigger food, therefore avoid coffee, tea and especially chocolate as it contains both fat and caffeine. The citrus fruits lemons,oranges and grapefruit can also increase the occurrence of reflux.
Your eating habits are also important and here is a list of what you should avoid:
- Eating large portions
- Eating close to your bed time
- Eating while under stress
If you suffer from nighttime heartburn raise your upper body at an angle as this will reduce the propensity of the acid flowing into your esophagus. This can easily be done by propping up a few pillows behind your back and neck.
One of the most effective ways to help cure your silent acid reflux is to ensure your digestive system receives enough health boosting nutrients. These include prebiotics, dietary fibre and phenolic compounds. These nutrients balance your digestive system and ensure your intestinal flora - essential for a healthy digestion and strong immune system – remain strong.
People with silent acid reflux often have low levels of digestive enzymes. These are essential for breaking down hard to digest food. Undigested food in the stomach is a primary cause of acid reflux. When it begins to ferment it creates a breeding ground for your bad bacteria to spread.
The fermentation process creates noxious gases that build up and create pressure in your stomach. This pressure can push the lower and upper esophageal sphincter open, which increases the risk of a reflux.
Most of these nutrients are readily available by eating natural whole foods that include raw vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
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