What does your acid reflux have to do with diabetes?

Nutrition


Photo credit: ethermoon, Flickr, Creative Commons

By pH health care professionals

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million American adults experience heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million adults suffer with it daily. But for something so common, it is also something that many people don’t really understand that well. And the terms “heartburn” and “acid reflux” are used almost interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. In fact, while they are closely related, each is, in fact, different from the other. 

So which is which?

  •          Acid reflux happens when stomach acid backs up into the tube that connects the throat and stomach (the esophagus). Another name for acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux. Sometimes acid reflux progresses to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of acid reflux.  
  •          Heartburn is what you experience with either acid reflux or GERD and is that burning pain or sensation you may feel in the area of your breastbone and neck or throat. It is the result of the refluxed stomach acid coming in contact with the lining of the esophagus. Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean you have GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems.

What does diabetes have to do with acid reflux?

People with diabetes have high levels of blood sugar (glucose). Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the nerve (vagus nerve) that controls the muscles involved in breaking up food in the stomach and moving it through the gastrointestinal tract. When the vagus nerve is damaged, the stomach muscles stop working normally. Food then moves slowly from the stomach to the small intestine or stops moving altogether. This disorder is known as gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying. The delayed emptying of the stomach can increase your acid levels and cause GERD and heartburn. Type 2 diabetes is a very common known cause of gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis may also impact your absorption and you may not be benefiting from supplements or medications prescribed for your diabetes. This is the reason why giving oral drugs to patients with GERD may be challenging if the underlying gastroparesis is not addressed.

So what can you do?

  •          Be proactive with this knowledge. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and have heartburn, then simply knowing that your diabetes could be the cause is helpful. The discomfort caused by acid reflux may motivate you even more to be even more vigilant in the control your diabetes.  
  •          Get physical. Physical activity, including appropriate endurance and resistance training, can be good therapy for people with Type 2 diabetes. It can lower your blood sugar levels both during and after exercise.   
  •          Monitor your magnesium intake and concentration. The link between diabetes and magnesium deficiency is well known and a growing body of evidence suggests that magnesium plays a significant role in preventing diabetes as well as reducing certain complications caused by diabetes.
  •          Try alkaline water. Consumption of alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for patients with reflux disease. Unlike regular drinking water, alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 has been shown to have good acid-buffering capabilities and may benefit those with acid reflux.     
  •          Get professional help. If you’re worried or concerned about your heartburn, talk with a knowledgeable health care professional.   

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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