To treat your heartburn, it’s important to select the correct and most effective solution for you. That means getting precise information on the real causes that underlie the heartburn symptoms. There are in general three kinds of treatment for heartburn: doctors’ prescriptions, surgical operations and natural/holistic solutions. These methods have marked differences in the way they are implemented and how they deal with different underlying factors, as well as in their effects over the long-term.
When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between the stomach and the esophagus is in a normal state, it lets food pass one way into the stomach, but closes afterwards to stop acidic stomach contents from being pushed back the wrong way. However, when this muscle relaxes at an inopportune moment, that acid content gets back into the esophagus and causes the pain of heartburn. In this way, heartburn is the external sign of acid reflux or GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). GERD is what happens when the muscular valve between the esophagus and the stomach is weakened.
Physicians habitually handle heartburn and associated problems by trying to use classical medications, some of which are available over the counter. These OTCs to counter acid reflux can be further classified into three categories:
1. Antacids that neutralize stomach acid by creating a covering that envelops the food content, examples being Maalox, Rolaids, Mylanta and Tums.
2. H2 blockers to reduce acid creation and diminish acid production in the stomach, examples being Pepcid AC, Axid AR and Zantac 75.
3. PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitors) which act by blocking the stomach cell mechanism that releases acid, examples of these being Nexium, Protonix and Prilosec,
The Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery published information in 2004 to show that PPIs do not combat the frequency of reflux attacks for GERD sufferers. Instead, PPIs simply transform acidic contents into alkali ones. The reflux still occurs in the esophagus, but with an alkaline bile that may in fact be worse. Although short-term alleviation of discomfort can be brought by such drugs, long-term usage can be highly problematical. These drugs do not treat the real causes but only the external signs. They do this by changing the chemical composition of the stomach. These drugs typically only have a temporary effect and can also make a patient dependent on them in the long term, not to mention the many undesirable secondary effects.
The next option to drugs is surgical operation. This is designed to stop the valve opening when it should remain closed, so as to stop the flow back of gastric contents into the esophagus. The surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophagus in order to reinforce the muscular valve at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach.
A patient who relies on this alone is likely to be frustrated as without the proper lifestyle or diet alterations, heartburn symptoms will probably return. Other risks associated with this solution include diarrhea, nauseous feelings, cramps in the abdomen, bloating and problems in swallowing.
The solutions above either attempt to decrease the quantity of acid produced, or neutralize the acid or reinforce the LES mechanically. However, none of them addresses the real cause. The major inconvenience of these classical methods for attacking heartburn is that they all address local GERD symptoms, only attempting to resolve the symptom and not the real cause.
Inner balance can also destroyed by Candida infection as well as bad diet and lifestyle habits, including excessive stress and poorly adapted sleep patterns, causing excess acidity, fermentation and stocking of toxins. For any real progress, it is the underlying factors that must be tackled to get rid of GERD and heartburn. Acid reflux comes about from the simultaneous existence of different medical and lifestyle factors. Genetic weakness, high fat foods, excessive weight and specific lifestyle and nutrition factors all band together to debilitate the LES that stops it from closing properly. The only possibility for permanently solving acid reflux and to prevent it from happening again is to address these root causes.