A burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone, that usually occurs after meal. Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over. Bitter or acidic taste in the mouth. These are the symptoms of heartburn.
Heartburn is common. Most people can manage it on their own through lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications. However, heartburn that is more frequent and interferes with the daily routine may be indicating of a more serious condition that requires medical care.
Normally, when a person eats or drinks, food, and beverages flow down, and a band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus called lower esophageal sphincter (LES), relaxes to allow food and beverage passage into the stomach. Then the muscle closes again.
Heartburn occurs when the LES becomes weakened or relaxed abnormally causing stomach acid to flow back up into the tube that carries food and beverages from mouth to the stomach (esophagus). Few of the reasons why the LES remains open are high acid production, low acid production, damaged sphincter, and poor digestive function.
Moreover, the food listed below are some of the triggering factors of heartburn.
- Raw onion
- Spicy food
- Citrus products
- Tomato products such as ketchup
- Fatty or fried food
- Carbonated beverages
- Caffeinated beverages
- Large amount of meals
If heartburn occurs frequently and interferes with routine, it is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is considered to be the most serious form of acid reflux as it can seriously damage the esophagus or lead to precancerous changes in the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus. It is also the most common digestive disorder in the US. GERD treatment may require prescription medications and surgery or other procedures.
To prevent evolving the heartburn to more serious cases, patients may consider modifying their lifestyle. This covers changing dietary habits and way of sleep.
Experts advise to avoid overeating
Earlier we’ve mentioned about the ring-like muscle known as lower esophageal sphincter (LES). LES acts as a valve and is supposed to stop the acidic contents of the stomach from going up into the esophagus. But it naturally opens when a person swallows, belch, or vomit. People with acid reflux tend to have weak and dysfunctional LES. Also, acid reflux can also occur when there is too much pressure on the LES that causes it to open. According to the experts, large meals may worsen reflux symptoms; that is why they advise to minimize meals if it deems large.
The experts also advise losing weight and following a low-carb diet
Diaphragm is a muscle located above the stomach. Naturally, in healthy people, the diaphragm strengthens the LES. As mentioned, the LES prevents excessive amounts of stomach acid from leaking up into the esophagus. If there is too much belly fat, it may cause heavy pressure in the abdomen that the lower esophageal sphincter gets pushed upward, away from the diaphragm’s support.
Limited consumption of raw onion and chocolates, as well as alcohol, citrus juice, caffeinated and/or carbonated drinks, are also recommended by the professionals. It is because these foods and beverages may increase the severity of acid reflux and heartburn.
When sleeping, try to elevate the head of the bed or try to sleep on the left side. Elevating the head of the bed or sleeping on the left side are effective strategies to reduce acid reflux symptoms and heartburn at night.
Aside from lifestyle modification, there are other tips to get rid of heartburn.
Wearing loose clothing
Heartburn may be because of tight clothing that compressing the stomach. Remember that heartburn happens when the stomach contents rise up into the esophagus, so try to loosen anything that holds the stomach tight.
Standing up straight
Now, posture can contribute to heartburn; and an upright posture puts less pressure to the LES. So try to stand up if you’re sitting or lying down.
Mixing baking soda with water
Heartburn remedies are also available in your kitchen supplies. It is in the form of baking soda. Calm the episodes of heartburn by dissolving a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drinking it slowly. It should do the trick in neutralizing the stomach acid.
Drinking ginger tea
Or seasoning ginger tea can be helpful to heartburn problems as ginger has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. Aside from heartburn, it also helps relieve nausea; so, try to add grated or diced ginger root to your soup, stir-fry, and other recipes.
To make ginger tea, simply boil water with ginger; or add boiling water to ginger tea bags. Please take note to avoid ginger ale, as carbonated beverages are a common heartburn trigger.
Taking licorice supplements
Like ginger, licorice root is another folk remedy that has been used to treat heartburn. Deglycyrrizinated licorice (DGL) is one of the supplements that contain licorice. It’s been processed to remove much of a compound called glycyrrhizin that can cause adverse side effects.
Eating too much of this food supplement (DGL) may lower your potassium levels, raise your blood pressure, and interfere with certain medications. It is best to speak with the doctor before taking licorice or DGL supplement.
Sipping apple cider vinegar
Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with three to five ounces of water and drink it after meal. Drinking a bit of vinegar is believed to neutralize stomach acid and balance intestinal pH. However, more research needs to be done because these effects did not reach the level of statistical significance. It is only one research that suggests that drinking a diluted apple cider vinegar may help alleviate heartburn.
A 2014 research states that chewing gum for half an hour after meals may also help reduce heartburn. This might be because chewing gum stimulates saliva production and swallowing. This, perhaps, help dilute and clear stomach acid from the esophagus.
Staying away from cigarette smoke
According to an article, additionally to the general knowledge that smoking is bad for health, smoking also contribute to heartburn. So, never smoke if you’ve been having an attack of heartburn.