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Kristin Hayes, R.N.

Could Environmental Toxins Be Responsible for Your Acid Reflux?

By September 7, 2011

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A new study reported in The American Journal of Gastroenterology shows an increased number of individuals with GERD among survivors and rescue workers of the 2002 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC). At a glance, I thought, this study made perfect sense as stress is something that increases problems with acid reflux. However, the study, taking this in to consideration, eliminated individuals with PTSD and included only those who had no symptoms whatsoever of GERD prior to the attacks on 9/11. The study suggests that breathing in the toxic dust cloud that accompanied the collapse of the WTC could be to blame. Researchers believe that inhaled dust and chemicals could have directly damaged the esophagus in some survivors and rescue workers. More research would be necessary to determine if a specific chemical or other agent that was part of that dust cloud is responsible.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is very common in the United States. Several factors contribute to GERD, such as stress, genetics, and diet. Diet is likely the biggest culprit in the U.S.  Symptoms of GERD include, a burning sensation in the throat and chest, chest pain, stomach pain, sore throat,  and difficulty swallowing. Many medications have come on the market in the U.S. to treat GERD, such as Prilosec (omeprazole), and Dexilant (dexlansoprazole), as well as H2 blockers like Zantac (ranitidine) and Pepcid (famotidine) which have become available over-the-counter. However, despite a wide range of available treatments the financial burden of treating GERD is substantial and there are unwanted side effects of medications, (for example recent studies show that proton pump inhibitors can dangerously lower the magnesium levels in some people). Untreated GERD can lead to Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer.



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