Gut Health, Heartburn and Acid Reflux

The term “heartburn” gets thrown around a lot: after a night of too many hot wings or a few too many cocktails, we’re pretty sure that’s what ails us. Heartburn is a more complex phenomenon than we usually give it credit for, however—and its long-term effects can be truly corrosive.

What Is Heartburn (and How Does It Relate to Acid Reflux)?

There’s nothing fancy about the name of this problem: “heartburn” refers pretty straightfowardly to a burning sensation in the area of the breastbone near the heart. 

That burning feeling is caused by stomach acid rising from where it should be (your stomach) to where it should not be (your esophagus). According to the Mayo Clinic, heartburn happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally tightens to prevent the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, does not restrict as it should.

Certain foods may disrupt the normal production and maintenance of stomach acid and trigger heartburn. These include:

  • Citrus fruits and citrus products
  • Certain tomato products
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried foods
  • Foods that are high in fat content
  • Sweets, including peppermint and chocolate

Each person’s body responds to food differently, and a spicy meal that one person downs without any consequences can wreak absolute havoc in someone else. But diet isn’t the only cause of acid reflux and the resulting heartburn.

Chronic heartburn can be a sign of serious health issues. If you regularly experience heartburn, consider whether your gut microbiome has become disrupted in a way that requires medical attention.

Common Symptoms of Heartburn and Acid Reflux

The symtoms of acid reflux extend beyond heartburn. Though that burning sensation in your chest may be the most obvious or persistent symptom of acid reflux, you might also notice:

  • Chest pain, especially when you bend over or lay down
  • Discomfort in your throat, which is a product of acid entering your esophagus
  • Strange tastes and sensations in your mouth, which may be acidic, hot, or salty
  • Discomfort or difficulty when swallowing

Don’t ignore these symptoms, especially if you notice them on a consistent basis. When reviewing your case, a medical professional may examine your gut health and other factors that could be causing your heartburn.

How Gut Health Can Contribute to Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Cleveland Clinic explains that acid reflux and heartburn can stem from dietary choices, obesity, and certain medications. However, your gut biome could also be contributing to your acid reflux problems, and possibly other health issues related to acid reflux.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition linked to acid reflux and heartburn, can result from the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your small intestine. Stomach acid continually eats away at the bottom of your esophagus, and may impair the function of the lower esophageal sphincter. Since dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter allows acid to enter the esophagus, it is the most direct cause of heartburn. 

GERD is just one example of how an unhealthy gut microbiome may cause heartburn. Leaving an unbalanced gut microbiome as-is could lead life-threatening health issues like esophagitis and esophageal ulcers.

How Probiotics and Better Gut Health May Reduce Your Heartburn

Knowing that acid reflux and resulting heartburn can stem from an imbalance in your gut microbiome, you might consider whether probiotics may be a remedy. Speak with your doctor about including probiotics in your treatment approach.

Probiotics contain live microorganisms meant to reduce the bad bacteria in your gut while increasing the good bacteria. Prebiotics have a similar effect and may also be a viable treatment option for your acid reflux. 

Without balanced gut microflora, you may have little hope of alleviating harmful ailments like acid reflux. Your gut health is a major determinant of your overall health. Starting a personalized regimen of prebiotics and probiotics may be the first step towards the health you seek.

Tips and Resources for Dealing with Heartburn and Acid Reflux

We recommend several resources for understanding and improving your gut health. For a start, consider these articles:

Visit Gut to Know as a resource for all things related to gut health.

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