Heartburn and acid reflux are names for the same common condition, where the stomach contents rise up into the oesphagus creating a burning sensation in the delicate oesophageal lining.
The lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) sits above the stomach preventing the stomach contents from rising up into the oesophagus. Relaxation or insufficient closure of the LOS underlies many of the causes and contributing factors of acid reflux which can include some foods, medications, obesity, pregnancy and more.
The most common symptom of heartburn / acid reflux is the burning sensation in the chest area that may radiate upwards.
As this is the most common cause of non-cardiac chest pain, given the serious nature of cardiac chest pain, cardiac related chest pain must always be ruled out first. If unsure, seek urgent medical attention.
Other heartburn symptoms can include:
Acid reflux and heartburn are interchangeable names for the same condition. When repeated reflux events cause irritation to the oesophagus, then the term gastroesophageal reflux disease (medical abbreviation GERD)or alternatively, gastro-oesophageal reflux (medical abbreviation GORD) is used.
If left untreated, GERD/GORD can rupture the oesophagus lining, leading to more serious conditions.
There are a variety of causes of acid reflux / heartburn, which include:
Left untreated, the constant irritation of acid reflux can cause oesophagitis, ulceration, bleeding and strictures or the condition Barrett's oesophagus, an alteration to the cells of the oesophagus with a strong association to oesophageal cancer.
Gastric ulcers are associated with the presence of H.pylori, reflux and long term use of PPI medications.
Long term untreated oesophagitis may also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, anaemia and hematemesis (vomiting blood), coffee-ground emesis (vomiting blood with granular appearance), melena (dark, sticky blood in stool) and haematochezia (bright blood in stool).
There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
A combined increase in prevalence and a decrease of intensity of symptoms can often lead to an acid reflux diagnosis after suspected cardiac pain in emergency settings. Ensuring the pain is not cardiac related is imperative to be excluded first.
Once this is established, diagnosis is made via one or a combination of symptom presentation, endoscopy, ambulatory reflux monitoring, or via a positive response to acid reducing medication. Recommendations may be made by your GP to reduce the incidence of reflux symptoms, such as:
They may prescribe medications such as H2 receptor blockers (Zantac) or proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Somac, Suvacid) which reduce the stomach’s ability to produce acid. Treatment for H.pylori may also be administered. These medications have been prescribed since the early 1990’s, and are in the top 10 Australian prescribed drugs, with an increased use of 1300% from 1995 to 2006. Australian GPs are recommended to limit prescriptions for these medications, as long term use of PPIs is not recommended by the drugs’ manufacturers and is linked to increased risks of:
Many people seek more natural treatments for acid reflux to avoid these significant side effects. Our acid reflux functional medicine specialists at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help bring effective long term relief with natural remedies for heartburn and a personalised approach.
Functional medicine uses evidence based methods, combined with precision testing and detailed case history taking to determine the root cause of your symptoms. As holistic practitioners at Melbourne Functional Medicine who specialise in naturopathic medicine for acid reflux, we will investigate which organs and systems may be involved in causing your symptoms. Our practitioners will take time to gather information about:
Acid reflux functional medicine specialists often find that low gastric acid is common in reflux / heartburn in both medicated and non-medicated patients. Functional testing via an at home testing kit will identify if low gastric acid is present to get a better understanding of the digestive symptom picture.
Equally, if H. pylori is present, functional gut testing such as the GI Map or GI 360 test may be requested. This state of the art testing will isolate via DNA PCR a far more accurate test than culturing to determine H. pylori’s presence.
Other functional testing may be required to identify:
Treatments will vary according to the underlying causes, but may include:
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Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or GORD as it’s commonly known, is also known by the alternate spelling of esophagus (GERD).
GORD/GERD is the consequence of long term symptoms of reflux, also known as heartburn. Chronic episodes of reflux are due to the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), located just above the stomach being too relaxed, or not closing appropriately and allowing the stomach’s contents to rise. There are a variety of reasons why the LOS may not close properly, such as obesity, food triggers, medications, stress, pregnancy, genetically inherited LOS weakness, or digestive disorders such as SIBO, or dysbiosis.
If left untreated it can be serious, causing inflammation and damage to the oesophagus, and may lead to Barrett's oesophagus, a condition strongly linked to a risk of oesophageal cancer.
For effective, safe, naturopath acid reflux treatments available from acid reflux functional medicine practitioners, see details above.
Sleeping on your left side can provide some temporary relief as it can improve the lower oesophageal sphincter closing and reduce reflux episodes.
Raising your head above your feet by propping the bed with pillows under the mattress, or 10-12 cm blocks under the head of the bed, may also help.
Naturopathic medicine for acid reflux, delivered by functional medicine trained heartburn specialists can provide you with a personalised program to relieve your acid reflux for good.
Addressing the cause of the heartburn is the most effective way to stop heartburn / reflux.
Natural acid reflux treatments from heartburn functional medicine specialist practitioners may include herbal, lifestyle, dietary, and supplemental medicines. As holistic practitioners, they will first identify the root cause, then tailor a personalised prescription to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms.
Once the cause and contributing factors are identified for your heartburn, functional medicine practitioners will prescribe natural remedies for heartburn such as slippery elm powder for relief of burning pain, herbs to improve digestion, increase diversity and make up of gut flora species, and reduce inflammation - depending on what you require.
Lifestyle medicine to improve stress resilience, such as regular meditation / mindfulness, or forest bathing may be required.
Dietary changes may follow functional testing to address food intolerances or allergies, nutritional deficiencies or gut dysbiosis.
Some parasites can cause acid reflux. The most often associated pathogen is Helicobacter pylori which is known to alter the gastric secretions of the stomach to enable it to proliferate. It is also associated with gastric ulcers and some cancers, however there is debate on whether or not it is one of our ancient ‘commensal’ species (i.e. one of our usual bacterial species), that can become problematic when allowed to proliferate.
Also associated with acid reflux / heartburn is the strongyloides worm, B. coli, S. stercoralis, A. lumbricoides, N. americanus /A. duodenale, T. solium / saginata and H. nana. Many of these species are not found commonly in Australia.
Ginger may or may not help, depending on the cause of the reflux, and the same can be said for green tea. Both may provide relief or potentially can make it worse. It will depend on whether you have too much, or too little stomach acid - and either can be present in acid reflux / heartburn.
Identifying the root cause of the reflux will help to determine the most effective natural heartburn remedy, to avoid you from taking a remedy that makes it worse.
Slippery elm powder mixed in a large glass of water can often provide temporary relief from reflux, however ensure that you are drinking plenty of water with any fibre supplement to prevent constipation.
Heartburn functional medicine practitioners can assist you by determining the cause of your reflux, and prescribing the appropriate treatments. Every person is different, and so treatment should reflect this.
Yes! There is a heartburn functional medicine practitioner near you in Melbourne, Australia.
We also offer telehealth consults if you aren’t able to make it to our beautiful clinic space in South Melbourne.
All of our naturopaths are functional medicine trained digestive specialists and will assist you with effective, evidence based natural treatments for acid reflux / heartburn and GORD / GERD.
Burping can be a consequence of eating too fast (gulping extra air), drinking carbonated drinks, eating foods that you have intolerances to, from intestinal parasites or from acid reflux / heartburn.
Heartburn is often a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, often central and below the sternum. It occurs after eating, and is often worse with exertion, laying down, and bending over. It is more common in obesity, pregnancy, and a variety of causes and conditions (see above).
Heartburn symptoms can vary from person to person, and it’s important to rule out heart symptoms, first. If in doubt seek immediate medical assistance.
3 teaspoons of slippery elm powder mixed well in a glass of water and drunk quickly will provide symptom relief - however, this will not treat the cause. Ensure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation with any fibre supplement.
Have you thought of seeing a GORD / GERD naturopath? Acid reflux can be treated effectively and safely by functional medicine acid reflux specialist practitioners, who are functional medicine trained naturopaths. They will first identify the root cause of the condition, which will then direct the treatment. Heartburn treatment may include lifestyle medicine, herbal medicines and supplements to support the lining of the oesophagus, reduce inflammation and provide symptomatic relief.
To reduce inflammation and improve the gastric mucosal lining, herbs such as turmeric, licorice, slippery elm powder, and boswellia may be helpful.
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