Gastric juices are composed of strong enzymes and digestive acids.
It is not unusual for these acids to go up from the stomach to the esophagus causing heartburn in the digestive phase.
This process is clinically referred to as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux (GER). However, at times, small amounts of gastric juices can travel up the throat to reach the larynx. This situation is clinically referred to as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) also called silent reflux because many people may have no associated symptoms of heartburn or digestive difficulties.
RLF can occur both day and night, even if nothing has been eaten.
The term reflux derives from a Greek term which means 'back flow', 'reverse flow'.
Normally everything we drink and eat is in the stomach to be digested and does not come back.
However, from the moment you are in an LPR situation there are some important symptoms to consider:
- Sensation of something that remains in the throat 'on the goiter', the lump in the throat
- Loss of voice or hoarse voice
- Need to clear the throat frequently
- Presence of a sour taste sensation in the back of the throat
- Feeling that too much mucus is accumulating in the throat
- Sudden coughing and small nocturnal instructive spasms
- Chronic cough
- Excessive belching, especially during the day
What can be done in case of LPR?
Well, apart from going to your doctor and / or speech therapist for the diagnosis of these symptoms, those who suffer from them can begin to change their diet and lifestyle by adopting habits that reduce the facilitation of the ascent of the acids in the following ways:
- Quit smoking as smoking predisposes enough to reflux. Many report having these problems after smoking.
- Limit the intake of fatty, fried and spicy foods, chocolate, cheese and sweets.
- Coffee, acidic juices, and any form of carbonated drink can worsen reflux because they have been found to increase stomach acid levels. Replace them with tea and herbal teas.
- Chewing Gums contain baking soda which is added to teeth whitening products and can help fight acids.
- Eat smaller, more regular meals throughout the day, eat slowly, and chew each bite thoroughly. Large meals create more acids, adding more stress to the valve between the stomach and esophagus.
- In case of overweight try to lose weight bearing in mind that extreme physical activity can also experience reflux.
- Limit alcohol consumption especially before going to bed because alcohol worsens reflux. Spirits and wine are the worst.
- Tilt the bed slightly so that your head is more elevated. By lifting the chest, gravity reduces the chance of acids rising up during sleep.
- Bend on your knees when you have to go down to grab something. By bending with the back, pressure is added to the stomach allowing the acids to rise up into the throat
- Do not wear clothes that are tight at the waist as tight clothes can also create pressure on the stomach.
How can osteopathic treatment help?
Many people are convinced that Osteopaths treat problems such as ankle sprain but they actually cure many other things including reflux as well. To understand how they do it, it is necessary to make a very brief and very simple reference to anatomy.
Specifically, many people are not aware that the diaphragm is a very strong, very powerful and very large muscle. Each time we breathe, the dome-shaped diaphragm contracts and moves with a pump effect, lowering itself.This mechanism makes the air go down into the cage, home to the lungs. In this way, the air enters the body through the nose and mouth and reaches the lungs, allowing us to breathe. The exhalation is consequently the opposite movement that throws the air out of the lungs.
What does all this have to do with reflux?
There are three circular holes in the diaphragm that allow the passage of three 'pipes':
- The aorta for the passage of blood from the heart to the abdomen, pelvis and legs
- The inferior vena cava for the passage of blood back to the heart from the abdomen, pelvis and legs
- The esophagus that allows the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach.
This third opening is the one we are interested in for reflux. The diaphragm can become stiff like any other muscle. This causes the 'tubes' to be squeezed, especially the esophageal one, causing this famous rise of acids from the stomach.
And now, what can an Osteopath do with it?
In the case of reflux, it is not only the diaphragm that contracts around the costal margins which are the ones that the osteopath can touch with their hands, but also occurs:
- Rib cage tension
- Stiffness of the back muscles
- Tenderness of the intercostal muscles
Often those with reflux cannot take deep inhalations
Osteopathic treatment involves the release of these muscles and joint mobilization with own techniques.
The effectiveness of these treatments, proven over the years, can reduce symptoms so much that the patient does not have to take drugs!