Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), more commonly called heartburn or acid reflux, is a common condition in which the sphincter that separates the stomach from the food pipe (oesophagus) fails to close properly. As food is being broken down in the stomach, stomach acid can back up into the oesophagus, producing a burning sensation behind the breastbone that can move upwards towards your neck and throat.
Most people with GORD get heartburn at least 2 or 3 times a week and it is not uncommon for heartburn to be the only symptom. On some days, bouts may be brief, but on others heartburn may last for several hours.
Other symptoms of GORD include:
- A sour or bitter taste in your mouth
- Feeling that food is coming up your throat and into your mouth
- Bad breath
- Dry cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump in your throat
- Watery mouth
- Chest pain
- Breathing problems
If you experience any the following more serious symptoms it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Vomiting blood
- Black stools
- A feeling that food sticks in your throat when you swallow
- Losing weight without trying
Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO): this condition, caused by the presence of more bacteria in the small intestines than necessary, can cause bloating, distention and upwards pressure, resulting in GORD and reflux.
Diet and lifestyle: eating large portions of food, eating before bedtime, lying down after eating and wearing tight clothes can all make GORD symptoms worse. Symptoms can also be triggered by certain types of foods such as those which are acidic or spicy.
Some substances such as chocolate and tobacco can relax the oesophageal sphincter, making it much easier for acid to escape from the stomach. A diet high in sugar, fried foods, alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks can all predispose you to GORD.
If you regularly experience GORD, Smart Nutrition can help you to identify your trigger foods and change your diet, optimising your digestive health.
Being overweight: space taken up by extra body fat can compromise organ function. Being overweight increases the pressure in the stomach which makes it easier for acid to escape into the food pipe.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help you to avoid or ease heartburn, and reduce your risk of developing other heath problems.
Pregnancy: many pregnant women suffer from heartburn. Carrying a baby puts pressure on the stomach, decreasing its volume and forcing food back towards the mouth.
If you’re pregnant and suffering with heartburn, Smart Nutrition can give you dietary and lifestyle advice that will help to minimise your symptoms.
Hiatus hernia: the stomach is situated below a layer of muscle called the diaphragm. The oesophagus reaches the stomach through a small opening in this wall of muscle.
In hiatus hernia, part of the stomach protrudes through this opening in the diaphragm and gets trapped. This predisposes the sufferer to heartburn (although it’s rarely the sole cause).
Treatment often involves medication and/or surgery, but hiatus hernia can often be reduced or managed by other means.
Food allergy or intolerance: food allergy or intolerance can cause all sorts of digestive disturbances including heartburn. Identifying and eliminating these foods can be a crucial step in remedying these symptoms.
Foods allergies are easily identified with a simple test. Smart Nutrition can also advise you on practical ways to change your diet so you can manage your condition in the long term.
Digestive problems: imbalances in levels of stomach acids, digestive enzymes and gut flora have all been correlated with heartburn. Ironically, heartburn is more often found to be caused by low stomach acid than high!
If you suffer from heartburn or any other digestive symptoms, a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Test can assess the efficiency of the digestive process, including measuring stomach acids levels. Smart Nutrition can also design a protocol to improve your digestion and balance stomach acid levels, keeping your insides happy.
Stress: the first organ system to lose its blood supply during a stress reaction is the intestinal tract. Longterm stress causes this area to be chronically starved of blood, compromises motility and reduces digestive secretions such as stomach acid. This makes food much more difficult to digest and the decrease in stomach acid can precipitate heartburn.
If stress is a significant factor in your life, it may be playing a role in your digestive woes. An Adrenal Stress Test can pinpoint precise imbalances, and Smart Nutrition can work with you to optimise your digestion.
Medications: some medications such as acid blockers, asthma inhalers, corticosteroids, pain killers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, anti-anxiety medications and osteoporosis drugs cause heartburn as a side effect. If you regularly use any of these medications and suffer from heartburn, Smart Nutrition’s nutritional therapists can help you to manage your digestive symptoms, and may be able to address the underlying condition that means you require these drugs in the first place.
Overuse of antacids: it’s easy to assume that heartburn stems from over acidity in the stomach: in fact, in most cases it is actually a lack of stomach acid that causes the condition!
Whilst antacids temporarily relieve the burning sensation, using them regularly further reduces stomach acid and so may cause you to experience heartburn more often. A more longterm approach is to use Smart Nutrition’s know-how to investigate the underlying cause of the problem and to design your diet and lifestyle accordingly.