4 Shocking Facts About Acid Reflux

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

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You probably hear a lot about acid reflux, or perhaps you suffer from it yourself. But what exactly is acid reflux? Well, right at your stomach opening is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES opens and closes as it’s supposed to, but sometimes it messes up. When that happens, your stomach acid can occasionally escape and flow backwards—that is, up into your esophagus—and if you’ve ever experienced reflux, you know you’re left with some pretty uncomfortable feelings. Not only is it acutely painful, but it can lead to serious health consequences.

Facts about Acid Reflux

Many over-the-counter medications on the market work to fight acid reflux after it starts, and it usually works. The issue with these drugs, however, is that they’re only treating symptoms of the disorder. Regardless of how much you use, symptoms usually flare back up, leading to an endless cycle of drug dependency. Even the commercials for these medications make it look like you can eat whatever you want as long as you have drugs in-hand.

Let’s look at the 4 most shocking facts about acid reflux:

1. Spicy Food Doesn’t Trigger Acid Reflux

All that spicy food you thought led to acid reflux? Well it turns out that might not be the trigger at all. A recent study from the director of Stanford’s Esophageal and Small Bowel Disorder Center suggests that only an unlucky few will actually have reflux triggered by certain foods. [1]

2. Acid Reflux Ruins Sleep and Causes Sleep Apnea

If you’ve ever tried to sleep with reflux symptoms, this might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s recent evidence suggesting acid reflux can significantly affect quality of sleep. The same research also suggests it could cause an even serious disorder like sleep apnea. [2] [3] Not only that, but the widespread effects can take their toll on overall quality of life—leading to loss of work productivity and increased economic burdens. [4]

3. Acid Reflux Often Coexists with IBS

Recent research suggests those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are also very likely to have acid reflux. [5] While both are fairly common gastrointestinal issues, the main view in clinical practice was that these two issues had no link. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, however, suggests that the two are “actually parts of the same spectrum of diseases.”

4. Acid Reflux May Lead to Cancer

Some studies suggest acid reflux is connected to a higher chance of developing esophageal cancer. [6] While the exact link is still unknown, any increased risk for cancer is bad news. Another study suggests, though, that the risk could come from the reflux of stomach acid itself, and that the more reflux you experience and the longer you have it, the higher your risk for certain conditions. [7]

Something to Think About

But before you reach for your old standby remedy, all those conventional treatments can have some pretty serious side effects, including bacterial infections, fractures in postmenopausal women, and heart disease. [8] [9] [10] There’s an easy natural remedy though. Taking probiotics, to start, is always a smart option for all ages; it’s thought to be particularly effective in newborns to help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. [11]

How do you deal with acid reflux? Tell us in the comments.

References (11)
  1. Kaltenbach, T. et al. Are lifestyle measures effective in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease? An evidence-based approach. Archives of Internal Medicine. 166 (9).
  2. Lacy, B. et al. Functional Dyspepsia Is Associated With Sleep Disorders. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 9 (5).
  3. American College of Gastroenterology. 'Silent' Nighttime Acid Reflux Symptoms Can Cause Poor Sleep And Sleep Apnea. ScienceDaily.
  4. Mody, R. et al. Effects of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease on Sleep and Outcomes. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 7 (9).
  5. Yarandi, S. S. et al. Overlapping gastroesophageal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome: Increased dysfunctional symptoms. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 16 (10).
  6. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Studies Find Association Between Acid Reflux And Esophageal Cancer. ScienceDaily.
  7. Souza, R. Acid, Bile, and CDX: the ABCs of making Barrett's metaplasia. American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. 295 (2).
  8. Gray, S. L. et al. Proton Pump Inhibitor Use, Hip Fracture, and Change in Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women's Health Initiative. JAMA Internal Medicine. 170 (9).
  9. Linsky, A. et al. Proton Pump Inhibitors and Risk for Recurrent Clostridium difficile Infection. JAMA Internal Medicine. 170 (9).
  10. Ghebremariam, Y. T. et al. An Unexpected Effect of Proton Pump Inhibitors: Elevation of the Cardiovascular Risk Factor ADMA. Circulation. 128.
  11. Indrio, F. et al. Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation. JAMA Pediatrics. 168 (3).

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