Think about your esophagus! I know I never did until one day…..one day…,Being a sufferer of heartburn for years, I feel like I am more than qualified to offer up this blog to you today. I know exactly what I’m talking about!,Almost everyone is well aware of what heartburn is. Most everyone has personally experienced it from time to time. Heartburn is usually innocent and without incident if it is simply periodic. If it becomes common (2 times or more per week) your condition is called GERD which is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is damaging. Really damaging over time. If not treated, it can lead to ulcers in the esophagus, Barret’s esophagus (Google it!), and esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is rarely found or diagnosed in time to treat it. Care is usually just for pain and only 15% of patients live for a year following it’s diagnosis. While esophageal cancer is currently rare, it is becoming more and more common.,First, what exactly does heartburn feel like? It feels like a burning in the chest or throat. The most important thing to understand is that you can have GERD and not even feel it. It’s known as silent reflux and it is just as damaging as normal reflux. Actually, one could argue that it is more damaging since you don’t realize you have it!,There was a time that I was even larger than I am right now. I am a former college football player. They wanted you to get bigger and bigger and when football is done, you still have the eating habits without the constant workout. In fact, I weighed a touch over 300 pounds. Of course, I’m 6’4″ so I could spread it out over more square footage but, trust me, it was all there. I literally could eat a salad and get heartburn. I couldn’t sleep. I lived on products like Zantac, Rolaids, and Tums. It seemed non-stop. I lost weight all the way down to 246 and, guess what. No more heartburn. Ever. Or so I thought. I still had silent reflux. Then it reared it’s ugly head!,I have, for a year or so, had occasions when I would take the first bite of a meal and have a difficult time getting it to go all the way down. Kind of like it would get stuck for a moment and I would have to sit there and wait uncomfortably while I fought to get it down. Then there would be no more problems until a few months later when it would happen again. This progressed to a weekend back in August when I started to have some discomfort in the area where my neck meets my body. It hurt to swallow. Even saliva. As you might imagine, I got a little worried at this point. So, the wifey is stubborn and made me an appointment with a doctor to get it checked out.,I go to the medical doctor and he tells me that I have GERD. “How is that possible when you don’t have active heartburn and haven’t had it in 3 years or more?”, you might ask. Well, I had silent reflux. It never hurt. I never felt it. But it was there every day doing damage all of the time.,So, next thing is to get an endoscopy to take a look at it. You have to understand that I have been an athlete and fairly healthy all of my life other than the years where my weight got a little crazy. This was all very foreign to me. And, while the internet is a great tool, it can be bad too. I’ll explain. Although the esophagus is something we do not deal with on a daily basis, I remember enough from chiropractic school to know that problems with it can be a serious thing. So, what do I do? I start diving into researching it. You can really scare the hell out of yourself by researching things before you know what your exact issue is. I had myself convinced that I had esophageal cancer with a 15% chance of surviving for a year!,I went and had the endoscopy and, lo and behold, I’m going to live. There was some damage there that has already begun healing due to the acid reducers I have been taking and it shouldn’t be an issue from here on out as long as I continue to take steps to avoid GERD.,Why did I tell you all my personal issues with GERD and what I have been through lately? Well, to explain to my current patients why I have been flustered lately. And, more importantly, to notify everyone of GERD and what the consequences of ignoring it could be.,Now some Amarillo chiropractors are going to tell you different ways of dealing with GERD. My advice in this blog is going to be the more traditional advice, and focus on widely accepted ways of avoiding GERD.,Everyone has different triggers but commonly, fatty foods, caffeine, chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, and smoking cause GERD. That was the short list. Keep reading.,Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can irritate your stomach lining and cause your lower esophageal sphincter (the ring that is supposed to prevent reflux from your stomach into your esophagus) to relax resulting in heartburn or bleeding. Folks that drink carbonated soda are also at an increased risk of heartburn, mainly at night as sodas are high in acid.,When you eat, keep in mind that overeating will obviously bring on heartburn. Also eating just before bed brings on heartburn. Eat at least two hours before bed. You may even think about eating more meals in smaller amounts.,Here are some simple rules to avoiding GERD:,1.Eat slower than you are used to. Eating is supposed to be enjoyable. Take time to enjoy your food. You’ll probably even lose weight this way because your stomach will have more time to tell your mind that you are full which will cause you to eat less in the long run.,2.Bump up your fiber intake. There is evidence that the increased fiber helps food to bind in your stomach keeping it from refluxing. And, fiber will help you feel fuller on less calories. It’s doubly good!,3.Lose weight if you need to lose weight. The increased weight around your stomach will put pressure on your stomach making it much easier for the food to come back up into your esophagus. If you haven’t noticed yet, all of these techniques have the added benefit of helping you to drop some weight.,4.Get some exercise. Walking, moving, activity: all of it, firstly, keeps you in an upright position which, due to gravity, helps keep food down. Also, losing weight will decrease heartburn. Again with that “losing weight” stuff!,5.Stress is definitely a factor.,6.Decrease your caffeine intake. Some folks will ignore this one but there is a link so consider it.,7.Decrease you alcohol intake. Everything in moderation!,8.Stop smoking. Everyone knows it’s bad for you. Heck, you know it’s bad for you. Smoking causes so many health issues besides only lung cancer. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a degenerative lung condition. It’s primary cause is smoking. Symptoms begin as early as 40 years old. Your window to stop before you really hurt yourself is CLOSING! Once you have COPD, you will always have it and it gets worse and worse as you go until it finally kills you. I’ve seen the end of COPD first hand and it ain’t pretty. You basically finally suffocate laying in your bed. Or there’s esophageal cancer, lung cancer, the aging of your skin, the general lack of overall oxygen your body can carry, or any other host of conditions that are caused by smoking. NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP! I have personal experience with Chantix (prescription medication) and it has been a time saver, money saver, and life saver for me.,9.Finally, if you can’t avoid GERD with these techniques, get yourself on some acid reducers. They are safe and really have no known side effects so they are a very reasonable alternative to helping you to keep GERD controlled.,Wow, between treating patients and all of the other things that go into running an office, this blog took all day long. But you must understand that I feel very strongly about getting the word out about GERD, esophageal cancer, Barret’s esophagus, etc… For such a common problem, the general public simply knows very little about the possible extreme dangers of it.,Please feel free to share this blog with your family and friends. Maybe we can take esophageal cancer from becoming more common back to being much more rare again!