Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a mild condition that causes gastric content to rise abnormally into the oesophagus. However, in the absence of treatment, gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to serious complications. This disease particularly affects people that are aged over 50, pregnant women during the third trimester of pregnancy and overweight individuals. Reflux can also be observed in patients suffering from a hiatal hernia. Moreover, there is a higher incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease among smokers.
The symptoms are primarily observed after meals or at night, but also when making certain movements (such as when the trunk is flexed forward). The patient feels an acidic liquid rising into his or her throat, which causes a burning sensation or may even result in retro-sternal pain. Frequent hiccups may also be observed, as well as persistent bad breath. Reflux can exacerbate asthma in subjects affected by this condition. In infants, reflux is common and benign, and occurs because of the incomplete development of their oesophageal sphincter.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease may be further complicated by an inflammation of the oesophagus (oesophagitis), which can in turn lead to peptic stricture (reduction in the oesophagus’ width). Weakened mucous membranes may lead to minor but persistent bleeding, insidiously causing the patient’s overall condition to deteriorate. Studies have also shown that changing the structure of the oesophageal mucosa increases the risk of cancer. The latter can only be diagnosed by the analysis of a fragment of tissue (biopsy) taken during a fibrescope inspection.
To treat oesophageal sphincter relaxation, start by acting on gastric motility. For this purpose, Nux vomica 4 to 5 CH may be taken 10 minutes before meals, with an additional intake 10 minutes after eating.
To protect the oesophagus against burns (oesophagitis), it is recommended to take low-dilution drugs such as Robinia, Capsicum, Sulfuricum Acidium Scantharis or Iris Versicolor, of which three daily doses need to be taken before meals.
On the other hand, in case of heartburn, one needs to take high-potency drugs once a day or once a week, depending on the symptoms’ frequency. Among these remedies, one can include Cuprum Carbonica, Calcarea Carbonica, Nux vomica or Lycopodium.
Furthermore, gastroesophageal reflux is common in babies. It will spontaneously disappear between the ages of six months and one year. However, when the reflux is frequent and affects the baby’s health, one can dissolve 5 granules of Cuprum 9 CH in the baby’s bottle.
Some unusual signs may indicate a more serious illness. One should seek medical attention without delay in the following cases: if the patient chokes during swallowing, if he or she is prone to swallowing difficulties regarding both solid and liquid foods, if the patient is subject to rapid weight loss, abdominal pain and vomiting, and in case of blood-streaked sputum or black stools (which indicate gastrointestinal bleeding). More generally, close monitoring and additional tests (digestive endoscopy) should be systematic in subjects that are over 45 years old and subjected to heartburn more than once a week. In babies, a medical consultation is highly recommended if the gastroesophageal reflux disease is accompanied by diarrhoea, fever, weight loss or stagnation of the weight curve.
Good to know: Given that the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease mainly appear after meals, the homoeopathic remedies used to treat this condition must usually be taken right before meals. Nux vomica helps to improve gastric motility while Cuprum metallica protects the oesophagus against acid burns.