Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid can push back up past the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and irritate the chest and throat. It causes heartburn, but over time it can damage the esophagus, contribute to asthma, cause coughing, create dental problems, or it can lead to Barrett’s esophagus (increasing cancer risk). Weight, alcohol use, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, certain medications, and other factors can be involved in reflux. Traditional medical treatments focus on controlling the symptoms, and they include lifestyle/diet changes, medications, and surgery.1 Many people may not be aware that chiropractic therapy can help to resolve the reflux, instead of just treating the symptoms.
Studies on Chiropractic and GERD
“The nerves in the mid-back innervate your stomach and upper GI tract,” according to Dr. Cari Case, DC. “(If) those nerves are getting irritated/ compressed/ inflamed, the part of the body being innervated by those nerves may not function properly.” Chiropractors have long treated reflux, in infants through adults.2 “Research published in the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health on May 9, 2009 documented the cases of 16 infants who were suffering with colic or acid reflux and got complete resolution of their symptoms with chiropractic care.” The researchers found a link between upper cervical injury, birth trauma, and colic/acid reflux.3 A British 2009 pilot questionnaire study of chiropractic patients who had “chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy and adjunctive soft tissue modalities” found that many patients benefitted from chiropractic care for their reflux.4
Drugs Are Not the Answer
“Rates of esophageal cancer are increasing in industrialized nations at a rate faster than any other cancer.” The Standard American Diet (SAD), stress, and sedentary lifestyle contribute to reflux. It is not that we have too much stomach acid. In fact, digestion does not properly occur when medications block the stomach acid. A “quick fix” of a pill does not resolve the underlying reflux issues. “If the protein is not completely broken down and gets into the blood stream, your body can develop…both food allergies and autoimmune disease.”5 Supplements, such as digestive enzymes and probiotics can also be helpful.
Natural Treatments for GERD
Craig Roberts, DC, QME recommends that people do not lie down within 3 hours of eating, that they should avoid things that contribute to the LES relaxing (i.e., alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, fried foods), they need to rebuild the stomach/esophagus linings with herbs (i.e., licorice extract/DGL), and they should lose weight, reduce stress, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, consume “good bacteria”, and seek chiropractic care.6 There are many ways the body can get into balance and alignment and heal itself from the inside out. Chiropractors can assist with this holistic and natural approach.