The History of Acid Reflux

For millennia, people have suffered with the symptoms of acid reflux. Evidence of early treatments for the disease includes a variety of treatments that were used historically to treat it in different cultures. For example, the Malawi tribe in Africa boiled the root of the jasmine plant to soothe heartburn while the ancient midwives of different cultures doled out ginger, coriander, and cilantro for their patients to chew on when they experienced pregnancy-related heartburn.

But it was difficult to actually find the cause of the disease since there were no ways of personally witnessing not only exactly how digestion worked but also what the physical manifestations of the disease included. The esophagus of an adult is approximately nine inches long.

In fact, digestion itself was poorly understood until recent times. Ancient peoples had different ideas about what took place after food was swallowed. Some believed that an internal combustion – a “fire in the belly” – occurred, not much different from the type of fire over which their food was cooked. Others believed it was solely the mechanical action of the stomach that broke down food for digestion. Doctors often theorized about the ways and means of digestion and even experimented on themselves and others to prove their ideas.

Many scientists were eager to find a cause for this condition, many of whom tried to label hiatal hernia, a condition in which the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm, as the chief culprit; however, sometimes the disease occurred in the absence of such a condition. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that a malfunctioning LES was nabbed as another suspect.

Since that time, a number of medical and surgical approaches to treating the disease have been developed. Some have shown early promise only to be discarded with the creation of new and different treatments; others have remained a mainstay for the more mildly affected. In that vein, more and more doctors and scientists continue to work on the cause, issuing studies and case reports nearly every month. And as they do so, diagnosis methods and treatments will continue to evolve.