The autonomic nervous system regulates digestion, heart rate and blood pressure among other things. It is the auto-pilot of your brain. If the system isn't workng quite right, digestion might not be regulated properly. Patients with autonomic instability often have dizzy spells or episodes where their heart races. These are often mislabeled panic attacks.
There are a number of diagnostic terms that may be used - it depends on your exact cluster of symptoms. Here are a few:
This link and the rest of the NRDF site are a good place to start learning more.
There have been several medical studies linking GERD and autonomic instability. A search of Entrez Med on "reflux and autonomic" pulled up 148 articles. Try these:
24-hour heart rate variability in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Folia Med Cracov. 2005;46(1-2):53-64. PMID: 17037287
Cardiac autonomic regulation differentiates reflux disease with and without erosive esophagitis. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Sep;41(9):1001-6. PMID: 16938711
Oesophageal acid exposure and altered neurocardiac function in patients with GERD and idiopathic cardiac dysrhythmias. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Jul 15;24(2):361-70. PMID: 16842463
Disturbances of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) estimated by short-term heart rate variability recordings. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Jul;55 Suppl 2:77-90. PMID: 15608363
Heart rate variability in patients with different manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Auton Neurosci. 2004 Nov 30;116(1-2):39-45. PMID: 15556836
Finding a doctor:
It is extremely difficult to find a doctor who treats autonomic instability and they are often not taking new patients. Try cardiologists first, then neurologist. Ask if they own and use a tilt table. If they treat autonomic instability, they will to lots and lots of tilt tests. If they don't use/own a tilt table, ask where they send people to have this test done. Your insurance company may be able to help you find a specialist.
Tilt table testing:
These are pictures of Katie Anderson being tested for autonomic instability. It looks a lot more intimidating than it really is. She basically had to stand upright and still for 30 minutes while they tested her blood pressure, heart rate, carotid pressure, temperature of her head, hands and feet. They strap you to a special table just so you don't fall over- if you get dizzy or experience pain, they tilt it back down flat.
Standing upright against the table makes healthy people bored. But people with orthostatic dysfunction can have dramatic reactions. If you "flunk" this test, expect to feel horrible for hours, be groggy the rest of the day and need a very long nap. Do not plan anything strenuous the next day.
Ready to go - this should be easy.
No longer having fun. Standing still makes her dizzy and nauseated.
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