Intolerance Lab

Symptom series Reflux

Some symptoms are almost synonymous with food intolerances, and reflux or heartburn is one of them. Today we are going to delve into what reflux is and how it’s related to food intolerances. Before we begin, it’s good to know that up to 60% of reflux cases these days stem from poor dietary choices or lifestyle habits. Undiagnosed food intolerances are a significant factor in this category.

Reflux 101

Reflux is essentially caused by a lack of digestive capacity, and reduced stomach acid, which can then force food back up through the oesophagus. Our stomach contents are highly acidic, and the stomach itself has a protective lining that keeps acids from harming it. However, the oesophagus does not have this protection, which means when acids come up through the stomach sphincter and into the oesophagus, burning and pain occur. The oesophagus can become quite damaged from this. Some other symptoms of reflux include belching, pain in the back between the shoulder blades and nausea.

reflux

How is reflux connected to food intolerances?

This is an interesting question, and it boils down to systemic inflammation. When we have food intolerance reactions, there is always going to be a level of inflammation that occurs. In some people, the inflammation can be specifically in the stomach, where it can work to weaken the sphincter that keeps chime inside the stomach. Chime is a mixture of liquified foods and stomach juices and is highly acidic. When the sphincter opens at the top of the stomach and chime spills out, reflux or heartburn can be the result.

Lactose intolerances and fructose intolerances are two that are specifically known to cause reflux, and so if you are experiencing this uncomfortable symptom, then avoiding lactose and fructose for a two week period is a good first step to recovery. If they are the culprit for you, you may notice a quick reduction in symptoms.

Both lactose and fructose intolerance involves an inability of the body to break down these specific sugars. The foods that contain lactose and fructose cannot be adequately digested, and this puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the stomach. Eventually, the sphincter can be weakened by this pressure and inflammation, and cause acid/chime leakage and reflux.

You can read more about both lactose and fructose intolerance in our articles titled ‘Lactose FAQ’ and ‘Fructose FAQ’.

Gluten intolerance and undiagnosed celiac disease can cause a much more severe condition, which also has reflux as a symptom. If a person continues to consume gluten because their condition is undiagnosed, this severely damages the intestinal lining over time. The damage is so significant that the person can no longer absorb nutrients, and they become malnourished. This goes on to weaken all of the organs in the body, including the stomach and its sphincters. Reflux can be one of the unfortunate results of the bodies lack of nutrients in these cases.

There are certain other factors that are very well known aggravators of reflux. These include

  • Spicy food. This is a classic for reflux sufferers.
  • Coffee, or caffeine in general.
  • Very fatty foods. These are hard to digest, and so can cause reflux flare-ups.
  • Specific types of alcohol can cause reflux in some people.
  • Smoking.

You can try removing these items from your diet to see if your reflux is lessened. However, if you still struggle and can’t find relief, here are some recommendations that you can safely try at home.

The first step is to always check with your doctor or GP. Reflux is a symptom of many conditions, and so ruling them out is definitely recommended. If you’d like to get to the bottom of the cause of your reflux, a Naturopathic or holistic doctor is the best option.

Here are some steps that you can take to try and reduce your reflux, remembering that we are all individual and the same thing won’t work for everyone:

Have only one caffeine drink per day, or none if you can.

Have small yet regular meals. This reduces the load on the stomach and can help reduce reflux that’s caused by too much stomach pressure. 

Start chewing your food until it’s liquified as much as possible. This also helps lessen the load on your stomach.

Digestive enzymes can be an excellent supplement for reflux sufferers. If you also get bloating and cramping, these can be very beneficial.

Vitamin C and Zinc supplements help to repair the digestive tract and also help to produce adequate levels of digestive enzymes. Take them with food to avoid nausea.

Summary

In summary, reflux is a very uncomfortable condition that is caused by stomach contents spilling up into the oesophagus. There is no protective lining here like there is in the stomach, and so burning, and pain occur. Food intolerances can be a significant causative factor for reflux. So if you suffer reflux and suspect food intolerances, we strongly encourage you to get tested. 

In the meantime, the article shows you some simple tips and remedies to try at home. These are known to ease reflux and lessen the load on your digestive system. You’ll also find a list of common reflux aggravators, and avoiding these may significantly help your symptoms too.

We hope this article is helpful, and that you find an end to your reflux quickly.

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