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Your Heartburn Is Actually A Neurological Problem

Your Heartburn Is Actually A Neurological Problem
February 19, 2011 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Heartburn is a very common problem that affects approximately 20% of the general public.  It is commonly associated with symptoms such as bloating after meals, belching, burning of the stomach or below the breastbone (sternum), bitter taste in the mouth and regurgitation of stomach acid.

Most people assume heartburn (otherwise known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition of excessive acid production.  This is understandable since we use antacids to decrease acid production and our symptoms seem to improve.

But in reality, heartburn is a neurological problem.  Patients with heartburn have excessive stomach acid accumulation not production. Acid accumulates because it is not being emptied correctly by the stomach.   Just as a sink will overfill if the drain doesn’t empty correctly, so will your stomach.

The poor emptying is also accompanied by an ineffective valve between the esophagus and the stomach that allows stomach acid to splash back up into the esophagus and results in the burning sensation in the chest, the regurgitation of acid and belching.

Your Intestinal Tract is A One-Way Conveyor Belt

The intestinal tract is in essence a one-way conveyor belt pushing your intestinal contents forwards.  Food should pass through the mouth into the esophagus, from the esophagus into the stomach, then through the small and large intestines and finally passed out the rectum.

If the intestinal conveyor belt slows down at all, we get symptoms such as food sticking in our throat or esophagus, bloating and acid build-up in the stomach, abdominal cramps (such as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or constipation.

The poor functioning of the stomach is because your autonomic nervous system is not working correctly.

Heart Burn and the Autonomic Nervous System

A number of research papers demonstrate that abnormal functioning of the autonomic nervous is responsible for the poor emptying of the stomach as well as the ineffective lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the esophagus and stomach) that allows acid to abnormally splash backwards into the esophagus.

Briefly, the autonomic nervous system is a portion of your nervous system that controls all the organ functions of your body.  It helps the bladder to empty, helps maintain proper blood pressure to the brain, regulates the sweating of our skin, coordinates erection and ejaculation as well as coordinates the muscles and valves that push the contents of our gastrointestinal tract forward.

When the autonomic nervous system starts to act abnormally, the emptying function of the stomach is slowed.  The stomach still produces normal amounts of acid but since the stomach motility slows the acid essentially overfills and causes us to feel the symptoms of excess acid we associate with heartburn.

Carbohydrates and Autonomic Dysfunction

There is accumulating evidence that the excessive amount of carbohydrates in our diet is damaging our autonomic nervous system and resulting in problems such as heartburn.

As I’ve written before, the carbohydrates seem to be responsible for the development of insulin resistance and diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.   The damage to the autonomic nervous system seems to precede the development of insulin resistance.

It seems the sequence of events surrounding carbohydrate toxicity unfolds as follows:

  1. Consume excessive amounts of carbohydrates for many months to years.
  2. Carbohydrates cause your autonomic nervous system to operate erratically.
  3. Insulin resistance develops with continued excessive carbohydrate consumption.
  4. Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, heart attacks or strokes follow after progressive worsening of insulin resistance.

Lower Your Carbohydrate Intake to Reverse Heartburn

It strikes some patients as overly simplistic to say that if you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your heartburn will be greatly reduced within a few weeks and you probably won’t need any more antacids within 1 month.

Fortunately for you, it is this simple.

I have my patient reduce their carbohydrate intake (all sugars and starches) intake to less than 100 grams per day to reverse their heart burn.

Not only does their heart burn get better but so does their diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, sleep apnea, bladder irritability, lightheadedness and erectile dysfunction.

Give it a try for a month and I know you’ll feel better than you have in a long time and you won’t be needing to take that expensive Prilosec, Protonix or Nexium any longer.

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