Does your morning coffee cause you pain? Are you frustrated when a night out dining with friends ends in discomfort instead of relaxed conversation? Do you carry antacids with you every day?
Heartburn is more than just a nuisance. It can detract from enjoying a meal, force you to change your routine and hang over your every decision – what to eat, what to drink, when to lay down.
What is this monkey on your back and how can you find relief?
WHAT CAUSES HEARTBURN?
Heartburn occurs when the acid content of the stomach makes its way back into the esophagus. A burning sensation and even a bitter taste are experienced by heartburn sufferers.
If you are suffering more than twice a week you may have acid reflux disease – also known as GERD. Why is this important?
Not all heartburn is caused by GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). Occasional heartburn can be caused by a variety of factors but if you have regular episodes there are things you can do to help.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you have regular heartburn the first thing you should do is stay away from regular use of antacids. Antacids can relieve the pain of occasional heartburn, but because they are designed to neutralize the acids in your stomach they can cause the stomach to create MORE acid – a cycle called ‘acid rebound’. Some medications can also cause diarrhea or constipation or even increase the risk of food poisoning by inhibiting the growth of good bacteria.
Watch out for trigger foods such as caffeine, alcohol, citrus, chocolate, minty, spicy or tomato-based foods as well as fatty or fried foods, onions or garlic.
Being overweight or smoking also increases the risk of GERD and lifestyle changes may help to control the symptoms.
Activities such as lying down after a meal, bending forward, lifting heavy items or eating large meals can bring acid reflux on. Avoiding these activities after a meal, eating smaller portions and raising the head of your bed several inches may help.
Some natural products such as orange peel extract are being researched for their abilities to curb heartburn.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Anyone. But it should be noted that pregnant women, children, overweight individuals and smokers are all likely candidates.
Young babies have immature digestive systems. National Digestive Diseases (NDDIC) says that most children outgrow GERD by the time they are one year old. However, because the symptoms are painful precautions like frequent burping and keeping the infant upright for 30 minutes after eating can reduce the occurrence.
Older children may have to take similar precautions in diet and activity as adults. You should always consult your doctor when you suspect GERD to avoid future complications.
Being overweight or pregnant increases the pressure in the abdomen. 25% of pregnant women experience heartburn at some time during their pregnancy.
If you suspect GERD it is important to contact your doctor as there can be harmful side effects of persistent heartburn including scaring of the esophagus, asthma, erosion of the teeth and even increased risk of esophageal cancer. Frequent, persistent heartburn can also be a symptom of other serious conditions and should be checked on by a professional.