According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, 13% of Canadians suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This figure may be much higher because of the vast majority of people that experience GERD self-medicate. But what are the causes of GERD? Read on to learn more about this common disease and three overlooked causes of GERD.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
GERD is when the contents of the stomach go up the oesophagus and into the throat. The symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Acidic taste in the mouth
- Burning pain in the chest
- Breathing problems
- A chronic cough
- Chronic laryngitis
- Erosion of the teeth in longstanding issues
It is important not to ignore GERD as it may lead to chronic inflammation of the esophagus (Barrats Esophagitis) and even esophageal cancer.
What are the medical causes of GERD?
Medical textbooks describe the cause of GERD as a dysfunction of the lower esophagal sphincter that usually prevents the stomach acid from travelling from the stomach and up to the esophagus.
The medical treatment for sphincter dysfunction is surgery known as a Fundoplication. Surgeons wrap the upper part of the stomach around the lower part of the esophageal sphincter.
Like medication, the use of surgery is trying to treat symptoms and is not resolving the underlying causes of GERD.
What are Underlying Causes of GERD?
When looking for the cause of any health issue, it is best to take a simple step by step approach. This approach means looking for the most straightforward reason first.
1. Think of Diet First
If you suffer from any digestive issue including GERD then looking at your diet is an excellent first step.
Following an elimination diet, whereby most food allergens are removed, is an excellent place to start. Most elimination diets exclude wheat, dairy, spicy foods and nightshade vegetables.
Examples of elimination diest include:
The underlying cause of GERD may be Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Their symptoms are very similar. A low fodmap diet has been shown in clinical trials to help symptoms of IBS.
If the elimination diet does not give 100% relief, then the next consideration is dybiosis. Dybiosis is an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria that live in the gut. Two types of dybiosis are associated with GERD.
H.pylori is a type of bacteria that live in the stomach and have been shown to be a cause of stomach ulcers. If someone has GERD and an overgrowth of H.pylori then it would seem reasonable to treat the H.pylori.
You can test for H.pylori using a stool, breath and blood test. Using a combination of all three tests ensures a more accurate diagnosis.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO can often be the underlying cause of IBS. It, therefore, makes sense that the treatment of SIBO may also help GERD.
SIBO can cause increased gas pressure in the small intestine and the stomach. This gas pressure may be one the mechanism by which SIBO causes GERD.
Reduced intestinal motility is associated with SIBO and may also contribute to GERD.
Testing for SIBO is achieved via a lactulose breath test.
Treatment of SIBO is a combination of a low fodmap diet, herbal antimicrobials and prokinetic supplements.
3. Increased Stomach Acid
If both dietary and dybiosis interventions do not give 100% relief, then the cause of GERD could be due to excess stomach acid.
The symptoms of high and low stomach acid often overlap however excess stomach typically occurs in younger people.
If younger people report a gnawing-type stomach pain or any family or personal history of gastritis or ulcers, there is a likelihood they are having issues with high stomach acid.
Treatment of increased stomach acid
In some cases, it may be necessary to use a take a short-term course of acid lowering medication.
Alternative treatments for increased stomach acid include a combination of Melatonin, B Vitamins, Betaine and Methionine.
Alternative treatments are not recommended for long-term use.
Many Canadians suffer from GERD. The medical treatment of GERD is surgery.
3 often overlooked causes of GERD include diet, dybiosis and increased stomach acid.
If you think you have GERD then looking into these overlooked causes in a simple step by step approach may resolve your problems.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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