Acid reflux and allergies are linked. They are both inflammatory disorders that reinforce each other. Untreated acid reflux worsens allergies and allergies worsen food pipe irritation from acid reflux. To understand how allergies and acid reflux are linked, you need to understand how stomach acid irritates your food pipe:
Until recently, it was thought that esophagitis, irritation of your food pipe, was caused by burns from stomach acid. The same way as spilling battery acid on your hand causes immediate damage. Now we know that this isn't correct.
Acid reflux doesn't immediately cause chemical burns inside your food pipe. Researchers investigated patients with severe GERD, who were on acid blockers for several years. They observed what happened if these patients stopped taking their medication. Once the acid returned, chemical burns didn't develop immediately. It was only after two weeks of exposure to their own stomach juices, that inflammation developed. It seems that acid reflux develops in a way that is similar to allergic reactions.
So stomach acid doesn't literally burn away your esophagus. But it is powerful enough to irritate your food pipe. Your stomach has a thick mucuous membrane to protect itself from burning stomach acid. Your food pipe hasn't. The presence of stomach acid in your unprotected food pipe, alarms your biological bouncers: the macrophages. These patrol your body in search for potential troublemakers trying to sneak in. In this case, the foreign substance is stomach content. Therefore, one could state that your esophagus develops some sort of allergic reaction to stomach acid.
What happens is that the macrophages call for assistance from cytokines. These proteins start an immune reaction. Essentially, cytokines create a temporary state of inflammation to fight off intruders. Your food pipe becomes red, and cytokines attract white blood cells, histamine and antibodies. These cytokines are the same proteins that set off an allergic response. Acid reflux and allergies resemble each other.
Daily exposure to stomach acid, leads to a chronic irritation. Years of exposure to stomach acid can lead to a serious condition called Barret's esophagus .
Allergies happen when your body thinks a certain substance is a dangerous intruder. You start producing cytokines when you get exposed to foods, pollen or pet hair. Cytokines start floating around in your body and worsen other sites of inflammation. That is how an allergen like pollen, for example, can worsen food pipe irritation due to acid reflux.
They same thing happens the other way around. If you have acid reflux, it irritates your esophagus. Your food pipe starts producing cytokines, that worsens allergic reactions.
The new research shows us that acid reflux and allergies influence and reinforce each other.
These new findings may also have implications for therapy. Although PPIs will probably remain the backbone of treatment, new therapies that target the inflammatory cascade caused by cytokines can be developed.
The new research also shows us that current acid reflux medication, doesn't resolve the root cause of acid reflux. Acid blockers don't stop stomach content from escaping your stomach. It only makes your stomach juices less invasive. The problem remains that stomach content flows in and out your esophagus, instead of remaining in your stomach. Remember that acid reflux medication has serious downsides and that acid reflux remedies provide an alternative for medication.
It also shows us that it is important to treat allergies if you have acid reflux, because they worsen your GERD. Anti-histamines like Zyrtec, loratadine etc. are the most common medication to prevent allergic reaction. Treating acid reflux with medication or alternative remedies can also help to calm down allergies. Studies show that inflammatory disorders are related and develop as clusters. They might even set the stage for more serious chronic inflammatory diseases, like cancer cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and parkinson's disease.
Acid reflux and allergies are both inflammatory disorders and some kind of auto-immune diseases. If you suffer from both problems, you should seek help for both conditions, since they are related.
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