Gastroesophageal Reflux is the scientific name given to what we all know more commonly as either acid reflux or heartburn. It's likely that you'd have experienced it at some point in your life, perhaps during a spell of ill health, during pregnancy or after a very spicy curry! It's that stingy burning sensation in your chest and up your throat, it might be accompanied by a bitter taste, and can be worse if you lie down. It's caused by stomach acid which has made its way back the wrong way up the oesophagus (the tube connecting your throat to your stomach.)
Some people find that they suffer with heartburn more frequently, or go through phases of experiencing it; in fact 25% of the population is said to suffer gastrointestinal conditions resulting in heartburn at least once per month. Heartburn that occurs frequently and becomes debilitating is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and will need medical attention before it damages your digestive system, but most of the time it can be managed with some health and lifestyle changes. If you're suffering with heartburn, it can be assumed that in some way it's your body signalling that there is something not quite right with your digestive system, and commonly this can be caused and subsequently addressed by paying attention to - you guessed it: your gut microbiome.
The link between acid reflux & gut microbiome
We strive to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. When there is an imbalance, or dysbiosis, it can cause disruption to almost every system in your body: digestion, hormone balance, sleep issues, sugar cravings, allergies and skin issues, mood disorders, the list goes on. One of the key symptoms suggesting an imbalance is heartburn. Some of the other symptoms to look out for include things like gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. They are sometimes lumped together under the catchall term 'leaky gut', but all indicate that the balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut is off. The bottom line: if you're experiencing regular acid reflux / heartburn it might be time to investigate your gut health. And, paradoxically, the medication commonly used to treat the immediate discomfort of heartburn could actually be damaging to the balance of bacteria in your gut.
Some simple ways to help
If you're suffering with heartburn and would like to alleviate your symptoms, it's a good idea to work on a two-pronged approach by decreasing the chances of triggering heartburn, plus boosting your gut health to alleviate the problem longer term. These are some common trigger foods:
Alcohol, coffee, onion, spicy & acidic foods, chocolate, tomatoey foods, fried and oily foods, large meals & fatty foods.
You can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome by eating a clean fresh and varied diet. Using a probiotic like microbz will directly deliver live - good bacteria - straight into your digestive system, immediately boosting the balance in favour of the good guys. You can supplement this by consuming prebiotics (the food the good bacteria thrive on) like kimchi, miso, kombucha, yoghurt, sauerkraut, tempeh and plenty of vegetables.
Optimise your stomach acid
Stomach acid levels are a key contributor to heartburn. The problem is, it can be difficult to know if symptoms are caused by too little or too much. It is often assumed that it is too much, but it's not always the case. Having enough is essential for digesting your food properly and keeping gut microbiome at good levels. So how can you optimise stomach acid levels - is it microbz again?
Rest and be mindful
The way you eat has a huge impact on how your food is digested. Avoid rushing around and eating on the go or whilst distracted. Eating more slowly and mindfully might help your body digest your food in a more efficient way. Plus making sure you don't overeat, and that you're not eating too close to bedtime will have a positive effect on calming your digestive system. We're here to help you look after your microbiome, so it can look after you.