Digestive Disorders: Different Types, Causes and How To Deal

Heartburn, acid reflux, or a more severe, chronic condition such as Gerd can affect your quality of life and health. It can disrupt your day and night, making it uncomfortable to lay down and go to sleep. The good news is that there are many ways to improve this condition! But, before we discuss remedies, let us first examine the difference between Gerd, acid reflux, and heartburn.

Heartburn

Occasional heartburn is common. Heartburn occurs within the esophagus when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, the sphincter, does not close properly, keeping out the potent acidic mixture in your stomach. Heartburn is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack because of the pain it causes in your chest. 1

Typical heartburn symptoms

  • A burning feeling in your chest 
  • Pain in your chest when you bend over or lay down.
  • A burning sensation in your throat.
  • A hot, sour, acidic, or salty taste in the back of your throat.

Difficulty swallowing.2

Large meals and eating too close to bedtime can cause heartburn. In addition, some foods trigger heartburn for some people.

Foods that may cause heartburn

  • Onions.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • High-fat foods.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Tomato-based products.
  • Alcohol.
  • Citrus juices.
  • Caffeinated beverages.
  • Carbonated beverages.3 

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a digestive condition where a person experiences an uncomfortable burning sensation in the lower chest area, at the top of the stomach, sometimes lasting for several hours. This reaction usually occurs after eating or becomes more intense after eating.

What causes acid reflux is stomach acid being able to travel into the esophagus. Typically due to a relaxation of a ring called the lower esophageal sphincter, which is just before the opening of the stomach. If this ring stays relaxed after food passes through to enter the stomach, stomach acid can move up into the esophagus, causing the sometimes-painful burning sensation. 

Other possible causes of acid reflux include pregnancy and hiatal hernia.

Common triggers of acid reflux and Gerd:

  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus foods
  • Tomato-based foods
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Eating right before bed
  • Eating with an already full stomach
  • Being overweight and having a big belly
  • Chronic intestinal bloating or constipation
  • Overeating
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Chronic stress affects the nerves in your stomach, making it impossible to process the food properly. This stress response will cause food to go up instead of down. We can’t appropriately digest if we are not relaxed. 
  • Loss of magnesium can be caused by stress. Magnesium is needed to relax the sphincter at the bottom of your stomach. 
  • Food sensitivities include gluten and dairy.
  • Bad bacteria or yeast growing in your stomach. Suppose you have been on many antibiotics; if you have been on hormones, you eat a lot of sugar and processed food. H. Pylori, a bacterium that affects many, can sometimes be linked to reflux.4

Some supplements may alleviate the discomfort of acid reflux. L-Glutamine, aloe, and licorice help to coat the stomach lining. Probiotics help you digest your food, and digestive enzymes can help to break down food. Probiotics help to reduce the symptoms of Gerd such as regurgitation and heartburn, significantly.5

Gerd

Gerd is a more severe form of acid reflux and can lead to other serious digestive disorders. Symptoms can include heartburn, regurgitation of food, sore throat, hoarse voice, and cough. Some people experience a feeling like there is a lump in the back of their throat. Gerd, if left untreated, may lead to esophageal adenocarcinoma, this esophageal cancer that occurs in the esophagus.6 

 

Nutrient-dense diet aids in healthy digestion

Nutrient-rich foods promote the body’s ability to heal and maintain optimal weight. 

It is important to eat mostly plants and a small number of animal products, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.

Be careful of specific carbohydrates that promote lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, such as desserts, white rice, white bread, and sugar.7

  • Eat slowly; eating quickly, and overeating correlate with heartburn and reflux. 
  • Chew each bite thoroughly; digestion starts in our mouth. 
  • Eat smaller meals rather than big meals. Overeating puts more pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Pause before each meal. Take a moment to look at your meal
  • Elevate your head in bed and sleep on your left side to help avoid nighttime heartburn. 
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Alleviate stress8

When to contact your doctor

Indigestion can be a sign of a severe health problem. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Blood in vomit
  • Weight loss or not feeling hungry
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools 
  • Sudden sharp pain in your belly or abdomen
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sweating
  • Pain that spreads to your jaw, neck, or arm
  • Difficult, painful swallowing
  • Yellow coloring of your eyes or skin (jaundice)

Also, call your healthcare provider if you have indigestion that lasts longer than two weeks.9

1. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux#:~:text=Heartburn%2C%20acid%20reflux%2C%20and%20GERD,-The%20terms%20heartburn&text=They%20actually%20have%20very%20different,of%20acid%20reflux%20and%20GERD.

2. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux#:~:text=Heartburn%2C%20acid%20reflux%2C%20and%20GERD,-The%20terms%20heartburn&text=They%20actually%20have%20very%20different,of%20acid%20reflux%20and%20GERD

3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview

4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146619#risk-factors

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31906573/

6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31289950/

7. https://www.journals.elsevier.com/gastroenterology-clinics-of-north-america

8. https://www.verywellhealth.com/remedies-for-heartburn-relief-89992#take-a-mindful-eating-approach

9. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/indigestion

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