Beyond your typical heartburn and GERD, the Consequences and Long-Term Effects of Untreated Acid Reflux are not something that you should continue to ignore.
In short, the main risks that can develop from leaving this untreated include;
- Esophageal Cancer (Esophageal adenocarcinoma)
- Barrets Esophagus,
- Chronic Cough (LPR),
- Gum Disease
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Chronic Nausea
- Fatigue and Weakness
- Increased Risk of Osteoporosis
Are all possible complications caused by this deficiency? For people with this condition taking action is best sooner rather than later. In this post, we shall delve into this topic further and continue to discuss the best action for those affected.
So What is Acid Reflux and How Does it Occur?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The esophagus is the organ that connects the mouth to the stomach.
Normally, a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) prevents stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus.
However, in individuals with acid reflux, the LES is weakened or relaxes abnormally, allowing stomach acid to escape.
When stomach acid enters the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest known as heartburn.
Other common symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation of stomach acid into the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and a sour taste in the mouth.
These symptoms can vary in severity and frequency depending on the individual.
What Happens When Acid Reflux is Left Untreated?
When acid reflux is left untreated, it can lead to a number of complications and have a negative impact on a person’s overall health and quality of life. One of the most serious consequences of untreated acid reflux is the increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. The constant exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause changes in the cells lining the esophagus, leading to the development of cancerous cells.
In addition to the increased risk of esophageal cancer, untreated acid reflux can also lead to the development of Barrett’s esophagus. This is a condition in which the cells lining the lower part of the esophagus change and become similar to those found in the intestines. Barrett’s esophagus is considered a precancerous condition and increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Increased Risk of Esophageal Cancer
This is definitely the worrying thing about GERD/ Acid Reflux. There is a strong link between this condition and esophageal cancer. Studies have shown that individuals with chronic acid reflux have a significantly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer compared to those without acid reflux.
In fact, it is estimated that people with chronic acid reflux are 8 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than those without acid reflux.
The constant exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause inflammation and damage to the cells lining the esophagus. Over time, this can lead to changes in the cells and increase the risk of developing cancer.
Why It is important for individuals with acid reflux to seek treatment and regular monitoring to detect any early signs of esophageal cancer.
Development of Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the cells lining the lower part of the esophagus change and become similar to those found in the intestines. This change in cell type is believed to be a protective response to chronic acid exposure.
However, Barrett’s esophagus is considered a precancerous condition and increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Untreated acid reflux can lead to the development of Barrett’s esophagus. The constant exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause inflammation and damage to the cells lining the esophagus. Over time, this can lead to changes in the cells and the development of Barrett’s esophagus.
For this reason, It is important for individuals with acid reflux to seek treatment and regular monitoring to detect any early signs of Barrett’s esophagus.
Chronic Cough and Hoarseness
Acid reflux can cause chronic cough and hoarseness. When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can irritate the throat and vocal cords, leading to a persistent cough and hoarseness. This can be particularly bothersome and affect a person’s quality of life.
When this begins to happen It is important to treat these symptoms of acid reflux as they can be indicative of underlying damage to the throat and vocal cords. Chronic cough and hoarseness can also be signs of other conditions, so it is important to seek medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
Reflux: Acid Reflux and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)
Dental Problems and Tooth Erosion
Untreated acid reflux can also have a negative impact on dental health. The constant exposure of the teeth to stomach acid can cause erosion of the tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, cavities, and tooth loss.
Acid reflux can also contribute to dry mouth, which can further increase the risk of dental problems. And, this is another issue acid reflux in the saliva. This can cause its own set of problems such as bad breath (halitosis) and even mouth cancer.
For this reason, It is important for individuals with acid reflux to practice good dental hygiene and seek regular dental care. Dentists can provide guidance on how to protect the teeth from acid erosion and recommend appropriate treatments for dental problems associated with acid reflux.
You can also try something like OraMD tooth oil. This is not the only product like this out there but ingredients such as Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oil help neutralize stomach acid and cleanse saliva. If you would like to learn more check out my post here.
Asthma and Respiratory Issues
There is a strong link between acid reflux and asthma and respiratory issues. Acid reflux can cause irritation and inflammation in the airways, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. This can worsen asthma symptoms and make it more difficult to control.
This I discussed above in the section about chronic cough and hoarseness. This is really the same problem. – Acid Reflux causes erosion to the organs between the esophagus and mouth. You should know if you experience this problem especially if you do not smoke. If you have asthma this definitely needs to be looked at.
Treating acid reflux can help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms, improve lung function, and enhance overall respiratory health.
Difficulty Swallowing and Painful Swallowing
This is mentioned in the video I shared above. Untreated acid reflux can cause difficulty and pain when swallowing. The constant exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause inflammation and damage to the esophageal lining, making it difficult and painful to swallow. This can significantly impact a person’s ability to eat and drink comfortably.
This can actually be a sign of Barret’s Esophagus as well so you definitely should seek treatment for difficulty and painful swallowing. This can be indicative of underlying damage to the esophagus.
Untreated acid reflux can lead to complications such as strictures, which are narrowing of the esophagus that can make swallowing even more difficult.
Chronic Nausea and Vomiting
This is a very clear sign of GERD if you haven’t been diagnosed. Acid reflux can cause chronic nausea and vomiting. When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can irritate the stomach lining, and the gag reflex to trigger nausea and vomiting.
This can be particularly distressing over time. It is common in expectant mothers as the extra pressure on the abdomen is often a cause of acid reflux.
Read Related Post: Acid Reflux During Pregnancy
So, It is important to treat chronic nausea and vomiting associated with acid reflux as they can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss. It is also important to rule out other underlying causes of chronic nausea and vomiting, as they can be indicative of more serious medical conditions.
Chronic Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances
Something else that can be a big issue with untreated acid reflux is that it can cause chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances. This is mostly down to symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn and regurgitation, which can disrupt sleep and make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.
Of course, any kind of sleep disturbance can lead to daytime fatigue, decreased productivity, and impaired quality of life. Practicing good sleep hygiene and routine sleep schedules are great ideas for better healthy living and wellness.
However, treating acid reflux is definitely one thing that can help improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue.
Again, this is yet another reason why It is important to seek treatment for acid reflux.
Increased Risk of Osteoporosis and Fractures
This might not seem like something that acid reflux can be responsible for BUT there is a link between acid reflux, osteoporosis, and fractures.
This is because chronic acid reflux can interfere with the absorption of calcium and other minerals needed for healthy strong bones. I discussed this in my other post about Magnesium and kidney stones. You need a healthy balance of stomach acid, vitamin D3, and Magnesium to absorb calcium.
Stomach acid plays a vital role here and if you have either too little or too much this has a knock-on effect on teeth, bones, hair, skin, and nails. Osteoporosis and fractures occur when the bones become too weak to protect us from things like unexpected falls.
Many people as they get older are at higher risk of this. It is without a doubt because of a decrease in vitamin and mineral intake (absorption).
Of course, there are many factors here but one is that it is important to treat acid reflux to prevent long-term effects on bone health. This may involve lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes and weight-bearing exercises, as well as medications to reduce stomach acid production.
*Note: You may also want to try something like Betaine HCL to increase stomach acid in some cases. Acid Reflux is not always caused by too much it is often because of too little.
Conclusion and Importance of Seeking Treatment
If you have Acid Reflux then really this can not be stressed enough. Untreated acid reflux can have serious consequences on a person’s health and quality of life. It can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, lead to the development of Barrett’s esophagus, and a whole list of other things. The list above certainly covers most of this but there are more.
Why It is important for individuals with acid reflux to seek treatment to prevent these long-term effects and improve their quality of life. Treatment options for acid reflux include lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes and weight loss, medications to reduce (or increase) stomach acid production, and in some cases, surgery.
I would say dietary modifications and lifestyle changes here are the big ones. Drinking alcohol in my own experience is one of the worst but drinking coffee and fizzy drinks are really not the lesser of two evils in this regard. Herbal tea is much better.
However, in any case, It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment approach for your specific needs.
If you believe you have chronic acid reflux definitely go and see them.
Anyway, I shall finish this post here but if you would like to read more click here.
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