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The History of Acid Reflux

This is not a new illness, and people have suffered with the symptoms of acid reflux since as far as we can tell. There is a lot of evidence of old treatments for this condition that were used to treat it in different cultures. It was much harder back then, as the medical practitioners were not equipped with the tools that allowed them to witness how the food was being digested and see inside of the throats. The length of an average throat is approximately nine inches which is impossible to examine without the use of a tiny camera. Even with all of the information available now, many people have a hard time pinning down that their symptoms are caused due to GERD.

Digestion has been fairly mystic until recently, and even today you will often read contradictory news related to the same food item. One day coffee is either hurtful, and the next it is beneficial depending on who is sponsoring the magazine at that moment. The food pyramid itself has been designed by the special interest selling the product and isn’t necessarily even close to what we should be eating. This makes it even more difficult to find helpful information and know what we should and shouldn’t eat.

In olden times it was said that due to cooking of the foods on high fire the belly has a reaction causing for it to burn. This theory was either disputed or promoted by doctors who mostly experimented on their own bodies and came to different conclusions. It might be that the raw diet evolved from these studies but I will get more in depth on that elsewhere. Others thought that the process of breaking down the food was strictly mechanical and like any engine the stomach simply tends to overheat.

The biggest breakthrough came thanks to a young man named Alexis St. Mornay who was due to bad luck shot in the stomach. He survived thanks to being lucky that it happened very close to an American military installation which employed Dr. William Beaumont. Alexis lived through the shooting but his stomach never completely healed and left a gaping hole inside with a tunnel like opening.

During the next several years, Dr. Beaumant learned an incredible amount about digestion by experimenting on poor Alexis. He would place food into the hole secured by a string and pull it out to see what happened to it. This let us know that beef for example takes around four hours to digest. He looked inside the hole at different times during the digestive process and performed many other experiments. Thanks to these we were able to learn a ton about digestive juices and how the digestive process works.

The next step came a couple decades later with the creation of electric lights. This is when the field of endoscopy as a science was created. This allowed for medical practitioners to shine a light in the areas of the body which was previously closed off to them. Using a series of mirrors they were able to examine the throat and the rectum in more detail by reflecting images. This was very painful to the one examined and newer technology which has evolved lately makes the process much more pleasant. New fiber optic lighting can easily see inside the curves of the GI tract and other emerging technology such as biopsy snares allow to extract tissue samples.

Seeing the digestive process in action was only the beginning. Many theories have formed identifying why exactly heartburn happens and how it comes about. In the last century things started coming together as many different doctors published papers only a few years apart moving the understanding of the condition forward. They realized that it was caused by the acid, and that it was coming up and hurting the throat lining. It was often referred to as “reflux esophagitis.” Some others tried to call it “hiatal hernia,” and blame the uppers stomach for pushing the food out since that was absent in many patients it did not stick around.

These days, with the technological improvements an entire field of stomach specialists are working hard on understanding the causes and coming up with better solutions to the problem. Hundreds of people, such as me, have been able to keep the symptoms at bay and live a normal life. Things are bound to only get better from here as the treatments and diagnosis continue to evolve.