Reflux is the great silent epidemic of Gut Health (Part 1)

When the media or friendly conversation comes up over the gut and gut health everyone talks about the gut microbiome. That is, the microorganisms in the large intestine. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to the gut, as you will see later on, that pretty well gets ignored but is just as important. What happens in the stomach and small intestine seems to be ignored despite the fact that what happens in these places will impact gut health all the way down including the microbiome. Reflux seems to be our societies real silent epidemic and linked with so many other health conditions.

The typical symptoms of reflux (GERD), including heartburn and regurgitation and the associated pain, occur both during the day after meals and the night, when they frequently wake people up from sleep. In some cases, due to the worsening of symptoms, strictures can form leading problems with swallowing.

At a personal level GERD is associated with decreased health-related quality of life and can impact everything from sleep and energy levels to libido not to mention the significant healthcare costs and lost productivity at both home and in the workplace. In fact, the cost of the impairment caused by GERD is comparable to, and sometimes is greater than, that observed in other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or congestive heart failure. 

But no one is talking about it.

Impaired aspects of quality of life include 

  • disturbed sleep,
  • reduced vitality, 
  • generalized body pain, 
  • unsatisfactory sex life, and 
  • anxiety. 

The financial burden of disease from GERD is also high and the cost of health care and lost productivity due to GERD is estimated at over $40 billion annually in the US alone. The annual average medical costs and services for patients with GERD may be twice that of without GERD due to additional outpatient visits, hospitalizations, emergency department utilization, and pharmacy costs.

Reflux not only produces gastrointestinal symptoms, but it can be responsible for a wide variety of other symptoms and health conditions including mental health, respiratory, cardiovascular and many more. This association with many other health conditions, is called comorbidity. Just the respiratory symptoms include such conditions as recurrent respiratory infections, persistent cough, life-threatening apneic episodes, and respiratory failure during fairly minor respiratory infections.

This condition can have a devastating impact on people. Fortunately there are some really simple strategies which I will share with you later about what you can do to reduce its impact. What I call the 50 cent solutions.