Heartburn. Most of us have had some experience with it. Whether it was a bit of indiscretion with the jalapeno-covered nachos or a daily battle waged with diet restrictions and medications, the symptoms can range from annoying to concerning. Symptoms of heartburn include include burning or pain in the chest, nausea, sour taste in the mouth and bad breath.
Heartburn is painful
When heartburn turns chronic it is labeled GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease. An estimated 10% of American adults suffer from frequent, chronic heartburn and it can become a serious health problem. The stomach has a special lining to resist damage from the caustic acid and other digestive juices. The lower esophagus, however, does not possess this lining and is susceptible to damage if the acid frequently leaves the stomach and heads north. Acid damage can lead to esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) and can even lead to esophageal cancer if left uncorrected.
Historically, heartburn has been treated or managed with over-the-counter antacids such as Tums. Prescription acid reducers, however, are becoming more common. This new class of medications, known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s), rather than neutralizing the acid present in the stomach, actually reduce the amount of acid that is produced. Unfortunately, this is much more detrimental to your overall health.
Treating heartburn with neutralizers such as Tums causes a temporarily less acidic environment in the stomach. This can, and often does, temporarily reduce heartburn symptoms. PPI’s , as stated above, reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach and, in most cases is very effective in reducing the symptoms. Both of these types of treatment illustrate the singularity of treatment of symptoms by ignoring the entirety of the effects of such treatments. In order to absorb calcium from the foods we eat, we must have adequate acid present in the stomach. If we neutralize the acid or reduce the acid produced, calcium is not fully absorbed (kind of makes you wonder about Tums with Calcium, doesn’t it?) Effects of this can include osteoporosis or osteopenia and muscle dysfunction.
From a chiropractic standpoint, our question is, why does the acid keep entering the esophagus? When we understand that the smooth muscle is controlled by the autonomic nervous system and that interference with communication between the brain and the muscle can cause dysfunction, finding the area of interference seems like a logical next step. We have found a strong correlation between subluxations in the mid-thoracic spine, especially the sixth thoracic nerve, and the incidence of heartburn. Correction of the subluxation brings about dramatic results in the frequency and intensity of heartburn.
Next time you feel the burn, don’t reach for the “Healing Purple Pill”. Instead, rely on the amazing healing power of your body and get your nervous system checked for subluxations!