Acid Reflux & Heartburn
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, often known as GERD or chronic acid reflux, is a condition in the digestive system when a weak GI (gastrointestinal) tract with low muscle tone can allow the liquid content of the stomach to regurgitate (reverse or reflux) into the esophagus. The liquid can inflame and damage the delicate lining of the esophagus although visible signs of inflammation are infrequent.
Gravity, swallowing, and saliva are important protective mechanisms for the esophagus, but they are effective only when individuals are in the upright position and have good pharyngeal, gastro-intestinal and abdominal muscle tone. Muscles, including the smooth muscle of the GI tract, contract in response to nerve stimulation.
Greater stimulation means more contraction. Less stimulation means less contraction.
GI muscle tone can only be normal with proper functioning of the Vagus nerve and the Parasympathetic branch of the Central Nervous System which have origins in the brainstem. Thomas R. Hendrix, MD of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine writes in a definitive paper on the physiology of swallowing,
“…the CNS [Central Nervous System (brain, brainstem and spinal cord)] provides direct stimulation to the striated muscles involved in swallowing … If nerves to the striated muscle segment are interrupted [severed] no peristalsis can be generated. 1
Misalignment of the hard neck bones [atlas and axis or C1 and C2] surrounding the delicate brainstem can cause greater irritation to or lessening of stimulation of the central nervous system because of the stress and physical traction they inflict on the soft nerves.
Trauma (in particular mild concussive injury to the head, neck or upper back) could increase the risk of GERD onset and/or formation of GERD lesions. Following trauma, GERD symptoms can take months or years to develop. Many patients recalled specific incidences of trauma (auto accidents, falls, concussions, whiplashes) that could have caused their upper cervical injuries while some did not. Some traumas had occurred more than 10 years prior to the onset of GERD symptoms.
1 Hendrix, Thomas R., Coordination of Peristalsis in Pharynx and Esophagus, Dysphagia 8:74-78 (1993)