GERD stands for GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease and occurs when stomach contents flow up into the esophagus. This back flow typically causes symptoms of heartburn and sometimes regurgitation, but also may manifest with atypical symptoms including chest pain, chronic cough, laryngitis, asthma, and even dental problems. This condition can result in inflammation of the esophagus and even precancerous changes (e.g. Barrett’s esophagus); but most of the time the reflux does not cause visible changes in the tissues. Nonetheless, the symptoms alone can be a real detriment to a person’s quality of life.
If you have GERD, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 1 out of 5 persons in western society struggle with reflux—and it’s probably more since many people are self-medicating with many of the over-the-counter treatments that are available. The problem is that both prescription and over-the-counter medications/treatments just address the stomach acid that refluxes—and our stomachs are supposed to make acid, it’s normal! A search for the REASON it’s refluxing is rarely undertaken. If the root cause of the problem could be identified and addressed, then medication might not even be necessary because then the acid would stay in the stomach where it’s meant to be. Furthermore, a significant percentage of people with reflux problems (around 30%) do not respond to even the strongest medications, and these folks definitely benefit from a deeper dive into the reasons for their reflux.
Another problem with the standard treatment that just blocks acid is that the issue of GERD requires a holistic (whole person) approach, and this method of treatment is one for which conventional medicine just doesn’t have the time or the patience to perform. Yes, you’ll get the standard instructions: avoid certain foods, elevate the head of your bed, and don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime; but ways to improve esophageal motility, gastric emptying, diaphragm strength, gut lining integrity, gut microbial balance, abdominal pressure, etc. are glaring omissions in most instances. At Legacy Health, we practice Functional Medicine—a method that searches for and treats health conditions at the root cause and acknowledges that every body system is interconnected. When it comes to GERD, we look at the gut-brain connection, digestive processes, the influence of hormones, balance of the microbiome, gastrointestinal gases, anatomical deficiencies, neurological dysfunction—and the list goes on. If you have GERD and have never had a holistically-focused evaluation, it’s time to get this done. Even more, if you have reflux symptoms that haven’t responded very well to standard treatments, it’s time for a more complete look at your health, and that requires a holistic philosophy of practice and a comprehensive treatment program. Give us a call if you would like to know more.