Acid reflux may also be called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), heartburn, indigestion, or pyrosis. It is a condition where the acid in the stomach flows back into the esophagus due to low muscle tone or weakness within the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). If the muscles controlling the sphincter that separates the stomach from the esophagus are functioning correctly, it will help keep the liquid content from escaping back into the esophagus and mouth. Muscle tone, especially the smooth muscle (smooth muscle is directly under the control of the autonomic nervous system) in the GI tract, contract in response to nerve stimulation, specifically the Vagus nerve and the Parasympathetic branch of the CNS (central nervous system). Both the Vagus nerve and the Parasympathetic branch originate in the brainstem.
The central nervous system is directly responsible for the process of peristalsis. This process is the body’s ability to swallow and keep content in the stomach as well as keep it traveling in the correct direction throughout the digestive tract.
According to Thomas R. Hendrix, MD of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine:
“If motor nerves to the striated muscle segment are interrupted no peristalsis can be generated … the CNS [Central Nervous System (brain, brainstem and spinal cord)] provides direct stimulation to the striated muscles involved in swallowing …” (1)
This means that in order for the gastrointestinal tract to maintain its ability to send content in the right direction through the process of peristalsis, (and not regurgitating back into the esophagus and mouth) an optimal functioning nervous system is crucial. The brainstem is in charge of many involuntary actions such as breathing, swallowing, and heart rate to name a few. This is why it is important to make sure an upper cervical misalignment hasn’t put pressure, tension or irritation on the brainstem and affected its ability to function correctly. A growing body of scientific literature shows that upper neck misalignments impact the nervous system and interfere with normal function. Your reflux may be caused by improper autonomic control resulting from interference to the CNS in the upper neck.
If you suffer from chronic acid reflux, it is important to seek help before it damages the lining of the esophagus and turns into something more severe. If you are intent on a natural form of care, upper cervical chiropractic may be right for you. Schedule an appointment to learn more today.
1. Hendrix, Thomas R., Coordination of Peristalsis in Pharynx and Esophagus, Dysphagia 8:74-78 (1993)