▻ As the Covid-19 pandemic constrains humanity to conduct a more sedentary lifestyle, millions of people have found themselves dealing with acid reflux issues. To fight heartburn and prevent it from degenerating into some serious condition, we have to understand its causes and act accordingly. In this process, hyaluronic acid might turn out to be a useful ally.
Definition and symptoms
When travelling through the esophagus and into the stomach, our bites of food meet a valve-like ring of muscle called lower oesophageal sphincter. This muscle opens to let the food in and then closes again, to prevent the stomach content from sliding back up. Whenever this valve malfunctions, stomach acids might leak into the esophagus, often causing irritation and pain. This uncomfortable process is defined as acid reflux and its most common symptom is heartburn, an painful burning sensation in the centre of the chest.
At this point, a slight clarification is in order: to be fair, not everyone affected by acid reflux also experience heartburn and, at the same time, some people with heartburnesque symptoms don’t actually suffer from acid reflux but may have some other causes to look for.
Acid reflux-caused heartburn typically manifest after meals or during the night, especially when we lay in bed without giving our body enough time to correctly digest the dinner. Nighttime heartburn is even more risky: while sleeping, in fact, stomach acid remains longer in the esophagus and we swallow less saliva, which acts as a natural acid-neutraliser.
Other than heartburn, acid-reflux symptoms may include an acid taste in the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing, or the feeling of food to be stuck in the chest. In some cases persevering cough, sinuses inflammation and even asthma attacks can be linked to this disease as well. If symptoms are frequent and persistent, occasional heartburns might turn into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the most serious form of acid reflux. When not properly treated, GERD can cause significant inflammation, ulcers, and scarring. Some studies even went so far to investigate the link between chronic GERD and oesophageal cancer.
Millions of people experience heartburn in their lives. Some form of reflux is absolutely normal and completely harmless, often symptomless too. However, when it happens too often or for extended periods of time, it irritates the inside of the esophagus. Researches have found that more than 15% of adults develop some form of reflux occasionally and around 7% experience it on a daily basis. Among the latter, about one third is diagnosed with GERD, the most widespread digestive disorder in many developed countries.
In most cases, when fighting against acid reflux, our life-style is the most decisive variable involved: being overweight, eating too much and being sedentary after large meals are the most incisive causes for heartburn. Quite unexpectedly though, also habits like wear tight-fitting clothes of smoking make us more vulnerable towards this discomfort. At last, even stressful situations might be a factor.
During the past year, many more people have begun experiencing various forms of acid reflux as the Covid-19-induced quarantine might have exacerbated some of the aforementioned situations. In fact, lockdowns obliged us to give up many physical activities and smart-working habits often lead us to spend a lot of time sitting at home while wearing tight-fitting clothes. At the same time, food consumption has registered a sharp raise. Reportedly, for being at home, many people invest more time in preparing and consuming meals. Also, more often than you think, people find consolation in food for a situation that might turn stressful.
Link in many other cases, the most effective way to fight against acid reflux is to work on its causes. Daily, small habits can really make a huge difference in our digestive process and in most cases are all you need to combat mild forms of reflux.
As far as nutrition goes, eating smaller and lighter meals, waiting at least three hours between dinner and bedtime and avoiding late-night snacks are simple but unexpectedly effective tips often enough to soothe this discomfort. If symptoms still persist, it might be useful to reduce foods such as carbs, tomatoes, onions, chocolate, spicy and fatty foods and citrus fruits, but also beverages like coffee, alcohol and carbonated soft drinks. Finally, maintaining an habitual active lifestyle and keeping your weight in check are good habits not only to contrast acid reflux, but also to live a healthier life.
New scientific research shows hyaluronic acid supplements may be a very promising ally in reducing symptoms of acid reflux. As a matter of fact, hyaluronans with a very high molecular weight such as SinoHyal FG-H or SinoHyal FG-XH has proven to be outstandingly effective in safeguarding and healing the gastric mucosa. More specifically, under normal conditions, proteoglycans in the ground substance of the connective tissue mucosa represent an effective barrier against bacterial invasion and spread. When this barrier is damaged, topical application of HMW hyaluronic acid can play a beneficial role in its reconstruction. That’s because the macro-aggregating effect of hyaluronic acid on proteoglycans inhibits the formation of edemas. In fact, during the initial phase of inflammation, hyaluronic acid is naturally secreted by our body. It functions as a biological response of the tissue against the damaging action of bacterial hyaluronidases and the formation of edemas. Hyaluronic acid has therefore been used effectively as anti-inflammatory, antiedematous and protective agent of the gastric and laryngeal-esophageal mucosa.
In conclusion, the forced home-staying we are going through can bring about issues many of us were not aware of. As far as heartburn goes, life-style and diet are the paramount parameters we need to keep in check. Still, hyaluronans might turn out to be a useful allies. Not only does long-chained hyaluronic acid form a micro-film that protects the tissues from stomach acids, but also it soothes the damaged lining of the esophagus by promoting epithelial regeneration, thus speeding up the whole recovery process.