Article written by Dr. Michelle Strydom MD
Heartburn is caused by fear, anxiety and stress in your thought life. Therefore to understand heartburn, it is important for you to turn to page 180 to gain a background understanding of the effects of long term fear, anxiety and stress on your body before reading this section any further.
Heart burn is where a person experiences burning pain in the middle of the chest which can radiate to the back and the upper, middle part of the abdomen. This pain is often exacerbated by bending, straining or lying down. Heartburn is often made worse when the person eats fat, chocolate, alcohol and coffee. The person can also experience regurgitation of acid and stomach contents in the mouth (acid brash) and formation of lots of saliva in the mouth (water brash). Pain and/or difficulty in swallowing occur in severe reflux. Normally when you chew food and then swallow it, the food goes down a pipe (called the oesophagus) to your stomach. Food moves down the pipe by contractions in the muscular wall which pushes the food along. These contractions are caused by stimulation from nerves. When the food reaches your stomach, it begins to be digested by the acid that is produced by the stomach wall. Then the muscles in the wall of the stomach contract, pushing food into your intestines where it is digested further. Once again, stimulation by nerves causes the contractions of the muscles in the stomach wall. The lower end of the pipe has a muscle called a sphincter that contracts and closes the pipe. This sphincter opens and closes the pipe in response to stimulation by nerves. It closes the pipe so that when the stomach contracts to push the food into the intestines, food does not go backwards (reflux) back into the pipe.
The nerves that stimulate your stomach, oesophagus and sphincter that opens and closes the oesophagus are told what to do by the central nervous system, which is under control of the hypothalamus in your brain. Remember the hypothalamus is the mind-body connection – it translates your thoughts into a physical reaction. When you have long term fear, anxiety and stress in your thought life, the hypothalamus alters the way in which the central nervous system functions (during stage 2 and 3 of stress). This results in an imbalance in the central nervous system where ‘wrong instructions’ are sent to the nerves that stimulate your oesophagus and stomach – one of the consequences of this is that it causes malfunction or misfiring of these nerves.
As a result, these nerves do not properly stimulate the sphincter that opens and closes the oesophagus. This causes the sphincter to malfunction where it either does not contract strongly enough so that it does not close the oesophagus, or it contracts at the wrong time. Thus the lower end of the oesophagus is open when the stomach contracts to push food into the intestines. The result is that food and stomach acid is pushed back (refluxes) back into the oesophagus. The lining of the oesophagus was not designed to come
into contact with stomach acid. So when there is reflux of food and stomach acid back into the oesophagus, the acid burns the lining of the oesophagus causing inflammation and pain (heartburn).
The misfiring nerves are also not stimulating the contractions of your stomach muscles properly. As a result the stomach is not pushing food into the intestines efficiently and there is delayed stomach emptying. Thus there is an accumulation of food in the stomach which also contributes to the reflux of food and acid back into the oesophagus.
There are drugs that doctors prescribe that work by reducing the amount of acid that is produced by the stomach wall. Therefore less acid is refluxed back into your oesophagus. This does help in alleviating the symptoms. However these drugs are not the ultimate answer because they do not fix the underlying problem which is misfiring of the nerves. To cure reflux, you need to remove the fear, anxiety and stress from your thought life. This is so that the stage 2 and 3 stress reaction can be broken so that the balance in the central nervous system can be restored. Then your oesophagus sphincter and stomach can begin to serve you as God created them to. So turn to page 523 and deal with the issues that are robbing you of your peace.
Note: Obesity (especially a big fat belly) can cause heartburn which is not related to fear, anxiety and stress. In this case the large amount of fat in the abdominal wall exerts pressure on the stomach, shifting it out of its normal position. The change in position of the stomach causes the pipe to ‘kink’, which results in the sphincter not functioning properly. This then leads to reflux. In this case, if the person loses weight, it will sort out the problem and the symptoms of heart burn will disappear. If you are having problems with weight gain due to over eating, I suggest you turn to page 234 which will help you deal with the relevant spiritual root.