Biliary reflux can be confused with acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While bile reflux involves fluid from the small intestine flowing into the stomach and esophagus, acid reflux is backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. These conditions are often related, and sometimes differentiating between the two can be difficult.
Bile is a digestive fluid made by the liver. Its main function is to help the body digest fats and remove certain toxins. Bile flows from the liver through the bile duct into the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum), just below the stomach. Bile normally cannot get into the stomach because a one-way valve between the stomach and small intestine, called the pylorus, opens to allow food to empty from the bottom of the stomach into the intestine. The pylorus prevents contents of the small intestine, including bile, from coming back into the stomach. When the pylorus is damaged or fails to work correctly, bile and other digestive fluids from the intestine can enter the stomach, causing irritation and inflammation.
- Intense and lasting abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain after consumption of food
- Frequent heartburn
Most damage to the pyloric valve occurs as a complication of gastric surgery, and/or poor diet that is high in fat and is too acidic for the otherwise alkaline body (e.g. animal products/junk food). Other causes of biliary reflux may be:
The reason for why diet may be a great contributing factor is because every food or beverage is either alkaline or acidic (basic or acidic on the pH scale). Ideally, the human body should be slightly alkaline (above 7 on the pH scale). The body will not allow itself to get out of balance, and will work overtime to maintain the pH balance if necessary. The imbalance is primarily due to the over-consumption of acid-forming foods and beverages, such as coffee, soda, beer, processed food, fried food, animal proteins, just to name a few. High levels of stress also increase acidity.
When your body is too acidic, the body begins working overtime to maintain balance and many mechanisms are used, such as the use of precious minerals stored in the body. The system becomes weakened, and can lead to many complications.
One of the fastest growing categories of medication in the U.S. are medications that relieve acid reflux. Even though acid reflux and bile reflux are not the same condition, they are related. Some acid reflux medications are simply introducing alkaline-forming compounds in your body to counteract an acid forming diet.
Unlike acid reflux, where a person can take something to control acid attacks, a person suffering from bile reflux disease usually does not get very much relief from these medications. However, lifestyle and diet changes can make the condition better, and can sometimes result in full recovery if a person takes drastic enough changes. Switching to a less acidic diet, such as 80/10/10, could make a difference in a matter of days. Making lifestyle changes is better than consuming medication because medication does not guarantee total recovery.
- Cheifetz, Adam S.; Brown, Alphonso; Curry, Michael; Alan C. Moss (2011-03-10). Oxford American Handbook of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Oxford University Press US. pp. 239–. ISBN 978-0-19-538318-8. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
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