|While information at this web site may be beneficial to patients, it is not to be interpreted as medical
advice or consultation for any specific condition. I share the information only as a discussion item between
you and your personal physician.
To recognize through education and traditional scientific evidence that we as a country are experiencing an epidemic of "ACID REFLUX".
That this epidemic impairs our health as a country, as individuals and of even greater importance, the youth of our country is impacted in a negative way.
They have lived their entire lives under this same severe stress of modern lifestyle and diet. The regurgitation of stomach contents (acid reflux)
results from failure of the one way valve at the bottom of the esophagus. Acid of this strength can cause serious tissue damage. Our body tries
courageously to protects us. The more we learn about this problem the better we can prevent, treat and improve our health. Within the body there
lies a cure.
* * * * *
ACID REFLUX: When hydrochloric acid escapes from the stomach, past a failed one way valve, up the food tube, it
triggers a strong protective reflex;
and this is appropriate. We usually associate acid reflux with heartburn. We now realize reflux often happens without heartburn. The magnitude
of the response can cause mucus production, muscle spasm, pain and swelling throughout the body, even though the target of protection is the
acid spill in the esophagus. This can cause misery and trouble. These persistent "problems" sometimes get labeled as a disease. If you are
good enough at protecting yourself internally from acid reflux you don't get heartburn. Remember, I did not create this body response, I'm
just reporting to you what I have learned. My initial "discovery" had to do with my oldest daughter. After 20 years of vague, nuisance type
of allergy, sinus, ear pain, breathing problems and several doctors who never suspected acid reflux she developed her very first episode of
heartburn. For the first time in her life she had a complaint that helped localize her problem to the gastrointestinal tract. That is when
I took a marked interest in the study of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you knew about something that could help my sick loved
one and didn't do your best to share information, I wouldn't think very highly of you. I'm only doing what you would likely do if the
circumstances were reversed. I'm here to share what I have learned.
The stomach makes several ounces of industrial strength hydrochloric acid every day. Because of the failure of the one way valve that keeps food
and digestive secretions in the stomach after we swallow, our body is inappropriately allowing these contents to flow in this reverse direction.
These corrosive, often acidic, juices flow back up, out of the stomach, past the failing valve, thus arriving in the lower food tube. The delicate
lining of the esophagus is relatively thin and poorly designed to protect itself from prolonged contact with the harsh, caustic contents that
escape from the stomach. The stomach, on the other hand, is very well suited to protect itself through a variety of mechanisms. As a result of
this hazardous "chemical spill" in contact with the delicate tissue of the esophagus, our brain perceives the enormity of the threat. At this
point the body perceives "acid in the food tube". Studies show that the body reacts the same whether we as researchers, or your body as
stomach juice generator, makes the acid. It's the fact that a dangerous chemical is in contact with vulnerable tissue that triggers an immense,
dramatic response. These tissues are in immediate danger of total destruction (it is VERY important to stop and recall that this is the same
harsh, corrosive liquid, hydrochloric acid, which can dissolve tin foil on contact). If not for the inherent protective reflexes of your body,
severe tissue destruction would be inevitable. When the acid penetrated through the wall of the esophagus or eroded a blood vessel, death
could easily follow.
Our body responds to the enormity of the threat by the means it has available. The response varies, as one would expect, from person to person.
Perhaps the most outwardly apparent manifestation of this protective reflex is the production of large amounts of mucus. The person may notice the
increased secretions in their nose, down the back of their throat, in the mouth, in the ear canals, in the rectum or in the stool and elsewhere.
If they don't have heartburn they may not have a clue that the "trouble" originates in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract due to a failure of a basic
protective mechanism; the check valve at the foot of the esophagus. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). All this trouble is
due to the escape of harsh digestive chemicals manufactured in the stomach. This one way "check valve" is a basic protective mechanism. The LES
is intended to keep the food/digestive enzymes/hydrochloric acid confined to a compartment (the stomach) well endowed and designed to handle the
caustic nature of this harsh liquid. The LES is a muscular ring, intended to be open only when we swallow. It should stay squeezed or "pinched"
closed the rest of the time to prevent regurgitation. Something in our "modern" lifestyle/diet allows the muscular valve to weaken, fail and
thus the stomach contents escape past it, back up, toward the head and neck region. Our body automatically responds to protect us from almost
certain sudden death.
* * * * *
The Dr. Ignac Semmelweis story:
A Physician Ahead of His Time
In 1847, at the age of 28, Dr. Ignac Semmelweis demanded that doctors on his hospital wards scrub their hands in a solution similar to bleach
before delivering babies. There was no logical reason to wash hands: in those days "germs" were 20 years in the future. Still Dr. Semmelweis
famously deduced that doctors were causing the dreaded condition of childbed fever (also called puerperal fever). After having an uneventful
delivery of a healthy baby, a woman in the prime of her life, would often develop what we now know to be a bacterial infection, a high fever
and die. This condition resulted from bacterial contamination on the hands of the doctors. It was the leading cause of maternal death in
hospitals. When doctors washed their hands, on the wards of Dr. Semmelweis, the death rate immediately dropped from 20% to 1%. Never the
less colleagues were offended by his claims: it was impossible that doctors could be killing their patients. They just didn't understand
and refused to change. DOCTORS WERE STEADFAST IN THE OLD WAYS DESPITE WHAT SEEMED INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF.
Dr. Semmelweis got fired!
He was dismissed from his position and had to move to another country.
I was taught this historical episode in medical school as a classic example of physician obstinacy and blindness. This story was rehashed in The
New England Journal of Medicine, March 25, 2004… page 1284.