Does that cup of morning coffee cause you pain and suffering? Are you frustrated when an evening dinner out with friends ends in discomfort instead of relaxed conversation? Do you carry and take antacids every day?
Heartburn is a lot more than a mere nuisance. It can detract from enjoying a good meal and force you to change your routine. It dictates your every decision – what you can eat, what you can drink, when you need to lay down.
What is this vexing problem and how can you find relief?
WHAT CAUSES HEARTBURN?
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid makes its way back into the esophagus. A burning sensation and bitter taste are commonly experienced by heartburn sufferers.
If you are suffering more than a couple of times each week you may have the more serious problem of acid reflux disease – also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Not all heartburn is caused by GERD. Occasional heartburn can be caused by many different factors. However, if you have regular episodes there are a number of things you can do to help.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If you have regular heartburn, the first thing you should do is stop regularly using antacids. Antacids can alleviate the pain of occasional heartburn, but because they are designed to neutralize the acids in your stomach they can cause the stomach to create even MORE acid – a vicious cycle called ‘acid rebound'. Also, some antacids cause diarrhea or constipation.
Avoid heartburn-triggering foods such as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, spicy or tomato-based foods as well as fatty or fried foods, onions or garlic.
Smoking or being overweight also increases the risk of GERD. 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 cause the onset of acid reflux. Avoiding these activities after a meal and eating smaller portions may help.
A few natural products such as extract of orange peel are being researched for their abilities to curb heartburn.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR GERD?
Anyone. But it should be noted that pregnant women, the overweight and smokers are all good candidates.
Additionally, young babies have immature digestive systems, so they may be prone to GERD. Precautions like frequent burping and keeping the infant upright for 30 minutes after eating can minimize the occurrence.
Older children may have to take precautions in diet and activity just as adults do. You should always consult your physician when you suspect GERD, just to avoid future complications.
If you suspect GERD, contact your doctor right away. There can be harmful side effects of persistent heartburn including scarring of the esophagus, erosion of the teeth and even an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Frequent, persistent heartburn can also be a symptom of other serious conditions and should be checked on by a physician.