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Heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is defined as a motility disorder characterized by heartburn due to the reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus.
It is one of the most prevalent GI (gastrointestinal) disorders, with heartburn being experienced by 7% of the population on a daily basis, 20% on a monthly basis and 60% intermittently. In addition, it affects more than 70% of pregnant women.
The causes of heartburn or GERD are:
- Incompetent lower esophageal sphincter (LES)
- Medications that lower LES pressure such as anti-cholinergics, beta-adrenergic blockers, calcium channel blockers or theophylline
- Foods that lower LES pressure such as yellow onions, chocolate or peppermint
- Excessive use of alcohol, coffee or tobacco
The most commonly experienced signs and symptoms for heartburn or GERD include:
- Heartburn with/without the regurgitation of gastric contents into the mouth
- Pain or discomfort during the ingestion of food
- Sour taste in mouth
- Dental erosion
- Chronic cough
- Chest pain
- Belching, abdominal fullness or abdominal bloating
Always be aware the following complications may arise:
- Esophagitis: causes dynophagia (pain during swallowing) and possible hemorrhage (bleeding)
- Esophageal stricture(s): causes a gradually progressive dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) of solid foods
- Esophageal ulcer: causes pain in the xiphoid or high substernal region (below the throat at the mid-chest). These ulcers heal slowly, tend to recur and usually leave a stricture once healed.
- Barrett's metaplasia
The following diagnostic assessments are usually used to diagnose heartburn or GERD:
- Upper GI endoscopy with/without biopsy: to document the type and extent of tissue damage and to rule out potentially malignant conditions
- Upper GI x-ray imaging series with barium swallow
- Esophageal manometry: to determine the pressure at the lower esophageal sphincter
- Esophageal pH monitoring
From a Naturopathic standpoint, Dr. Moira Kwok ND will obtain a very thorough medical history in order to put all of your "puzzle pieces" together to form a whole picture of everything that is going on from a health perspective. From this holistic approach to treatment, she will put together an individualized treatment plan based on a combination of dietary and lifestyle recommendations, supplements, botanicals, acupuncture and/or IV therapy that is based on your specific case.
- Beers MH & Berkow R (Editors). 1999. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (17th Ed.). Merck Research Laboratories: Whitehouse Station, NJ.
- Ferri FF. 2007. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. Mosby Elsevier: Philadelphia, PA.