Sunday, November 14, 2010
Much of America is vomiting weakly, and regularly. Thanks to euphemisms like “reflux”, and to doctors and patients alike who rarely stop to think about what is going on in the body, Americans are simply taking prescription drugs like Prilosec and Prevacid, or over-the-counter antacids to suppress gastric symptoms.
Merriam-Webster defines “reflux” as, “a flowing back”. One need not be a gastroenterologist to know that what is flowing backward, in this case upward, are the contents of the stomach. When the contents of the stomach are forcefully ejected into the esophagus and out through the mouth, we call that vomiting. When ejection is weak, only able to move a small amount of the stomach contents into the esophagus, or possibly the throat, we call it “reflux”.
To review simple gastrointestinal physiology, ingested foods that are perceived by the body as non-harmful, are accepted and moved down through the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. One need not be a doctor to know that when the body perceives ingested foods as a threat, the contents of the stomach are moved in reverse, up, and out.
You have probably not thought about it, but children, relatively speaking, vomit much more frequently than adults. The exception would be adults that drink excessive amounts, or unfortunate combinations of alcohols. We might say that children grow out of it, but in reality, the gastrointestinal tract becomes weary from multitudes of perceived threats, and is less able, in adulthood, to mount a forceful response; to vomit.
WebMD, a web-based service that claims to provide “valuable health information, tools for managing your health, and support to those who seek information”(http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/acid-reflux-symptoms) tells us the following about acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):
-More than 60 million Americans [1/5 of all Americans] experience acid reflux at least once a month.
-Heartburn, regurgitation, and dyspepsia are a few of the most common acid reflux symptoms.
-Making a few lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter antacids usually are all you need to control acid reflux symptoms.
-GERD is severe or chronic acid reflux that can lead to complications, such as cancer.
When your gut tells you that it would like to empty itself, it is not wise to simply take a drug, prescription or over-the-counter, to stop the symptoms and block your natural defenses. Common sense dictates that you pause to understand why your digestive tract is running in reverse.
Finally, and don’t miss this one, the most common cause of “reflux” is the ongoing consumption of foods to which one is allergic or intolerant. And dairy products are one of the most common offending foods.