Gastric Reflux

Got GERD? Rejoice! There are fixes for it that doesn't involve coral powder.


You think your gastric reflux is bad? Well, imagine suffering from heartburn over 4000 years ago in China. Think of the treatment options available to you in first century Rome if the reflux made you nauseous. If you were alive in the seventh century, would you have taken the remedy prescribed for your reflux-associated regurgitation? 


No doubt about it. Living with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) sucks. But consider yourself lucky that no wiseman is pushing seminal fluid, baby urine, coral powder, or powdered kaolin as cures for your reflux. Today, you can go to the doctor and pick up a bottle of pills formulated by a known mechanism of action. Since GERD symptoms develop when gastric acid (and sometimes content) leak out of the stomach, medications aim to either neutralize stomach acid, reduce the production or secretion of acid, or coat the stomach against its acid. 


When it comes to GERD, it’s easy to demonize gastric acid. But GERD is also very much a mechanical process. The copious stomach juices would have happily stayed contained in its own chamber, had the gate (or sphincter) between the esophagus and the stomach been without compromise. But sometimes (as for example, when we age, or put on a few extra pounds, or smoke) that gate does not function as it should and stomach contents spill out, giving us all that misery. Since reflux is also a mechanical process, a few lifestyle modifications, like weight loss and smoking cessation, can help in keeping the disease process in check. No doubt, refraining from food triggers, weight loss, keeping the head elevated when lying down is a commitment. But had our ancestors known about these lifestyle modifications, they’d probably would have chosen them over the baby urine.