GERD causes inflammation

September 30, 2016 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

I wrote recently about gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s when the burning sensation in the gut—commonly called heartburn—is chronic. And dangerous. I warned you about Big Phama’s billion-dollar babies— Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which neutralize stomach acids and H2 blockers, which block production of the acids—that claim to relieve GERD. I repeat that warning. Trust me. Don’t go near them.

I also recommended natural GERD remedies that are vastly preferable, including, of course, diet.

Re-understanding GERD

I didn’t give enough time to what causes GERD to begin with—and what GERD, even when symptoms are remedied—leaves behind.

Let’s start with the mechanics of GERD.

When we swallow, our mouth and tongue muscles close the windpipe to our lungs and divert the food into our esophagus—the tube connecting throat to stomach.

At the base of the esophagus is a ring of muscles—the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

A healthy LES pushes food down into our stomach, where extra-strength acids help break it down for the next step in digestion.

With GERD, the LES relaxes and allows those harsh stomach acids to rise up into the esophagus, mouth, and tongue, which lack the anti-acid protection our stomach lining thoughtfully includes.

When harsh acid hits tender, unprotected tissue?

It burns.

As I wrote in my earlier piece, GERD and its symptoms aren’t hard to fix or prevent naturally. Dietary changes are often all it takes. More below.

But now let me add one more critical factor—inflammation.

Inflammation, the root of all disease?

What exactly happens in that moment when strong acid hits defenseless tissue?

Pain happens, of course. So does inflammation—our body’s natural response to an unnatural event.

There’s increasing evidence that inflammation is the mother of all, or nearly all, disease.

The two types of inflammation

Acute inflammation begins when infected, damaged, or traumatized tissue issues an SOS from the trouble spot—your esophagus, for example.

Good pro-inflammation hormones then tell your white blood cells to move in to clear away infected and damaged tissue.

Anti-inflammatory compounds follow, once the threat is neutralized, to begin the healing process.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Acute inflammation is short-term. The effects subside after a few days.

Acute inflammation that comes and goes as needed is generally OK, signaling an appropriate response to occasional trauma (stubbed toe, paper cut) or viral or other intruders.

Chronic inflammation—an unwelcome welcome mat

Chronic inflammation is our concern with GERD.

It often has no symptoms, which makes it extra worrisome—a silent, permanent welcome mat to everything from heart disease, cancers, immune system and neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure…you name it.

In the case of GERD, the likely local inflammation-borne diseases are:

Barrett’s Esophagus (BE). The esophagus builds protective layers similar to the acid-resistant lining of the stomach—bringing with it a higher risk for esophageal cancer. It’s not common, but we can’t pretend it’s not there.

Erosive esophagitis. The esophageal walls begin to erode away or become ulcerated. It’s serious—some people experience bloody stools or vomit. Esophageal ulcers can also cause chronic bleeding, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia—also serious.

Strictures. GERD-related inflammation can cause the esophagus to create a narrowed band-like stricture, which can impair swallowing, increasing the risk of choking on food stuck in the esophagus.

Dental damage. Teeth exposed to harsh acid often erode, leading to a literal mouthful of uncomfortable, unhealthy outcomes.

GERD and asthma. GERD and asthma often appear together, possibly because acid in the esophagus triggers immune system changes that are shown to lead to asthmatic conditions.

Daily bonus health problems on the menu

Those with GERD-related inflammation are also at increased risk for very unwanted:

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis, laryngitis, cough, and sinusitis
  • Pneumonia (often recurring and serious)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring)
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Granulomas (pink bumps on the vocal cords)
  • Hoarseness, constant throat clearing
  • Sleep apnea

Un-inflame yourself

You can eat your way out of GERD-related inflammation.

Avoid irritants:

  • High-fat foods
  • Caffeine (sorry)
  • Chocolate (sorry)
  • Onions, garlic
  • Peppermint
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol (not sorry)
  • Citrus and tomato products

Make meals with the delicious, healthy ingredients you’ll find in my Newport Natural Health Cookbook:

  • Fresh, organic, local fruits and vegetables, but very limited citrus and tomato (very acidic)
  • Lean protein—eggs, lean meat that’s grilled, poached, broiled, or baked—never fried
  • Complex carbohydrates—steel cut or old-fashioned oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, brown rice, couscous
  • Potatoes and other root vegetables for their good carbs and fiber (not prepared with onion or garlic)
  • Good monounsaturated fats from fish and plants, from olive, sesame, canola, and sunflower oils, and from avocados, peanuts and peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds
  • Good polyunsaturated fats—oils such as safflower, soybean, corn, flaxseed, and walnut, and soybeans/tofu; and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout

Go on your personal quest for un-fire.

A healthy future awaits.

It’s your call.

References

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