What causes heartburn? - Rusha Modi
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Modern insights are challenging traditional notions regarding acid reflux. Physicians used to think of Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) as more of a nuisance than anything. Increasingly, we are starting to appreciate the connections between GERD and so-called extra-esophageal complaints, such as vocal cord polyps, asthma, and sleep apnea. Even patients who complain of non-specific problems such as fatigue and low libido without typical heartburn have been attributed to acid reflux. Thus, no longer is GERD considered solely a problem of the digestive tract, but rather one that has systemic manifestations.
Occurrences of GERD are increasing and there are a variety of reasons to explain this phenomenon. It could be that doctors are probably better at diagnosing it. Another possible conclusion is that higher rates of processed foods and obesity are likely to blame. One unique risk factor may be the unexpected consequence of treatment for Helicobacter pylori, the most common cause of ulcers which you can learn about from my previous TED-Ed lesson on The surprising cause of stomach ulcers. H. pylori may actually have a protective effect against reflux by regulating acid secretion in certain parts of the stomach. When it is cleared with the use of antibiotics, acid production can spike causing a higher chance of reflux.
Newer research is also altering the common perception that acid reflux is merely a chemical burn that erodes the lining of the esophagus. In fact, new data suggests that significant inflammation involving T lymphocytes, a part of our immune system, occurs in a large percentage of heartburn sufferers. This may provide a new avenue for treatment that involves anti-inflammatory mechanisms, especially for those that have not gained relief from traditional therapies such as antacids.
To learn more about the educator, Rusha Modi, check out his website here.
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