Heartburn is an unpleasant condition often characterized by a burning sensation in the throat and chest. Most of the times, it is triggered by the food we consume, especially acidic, fatty or spicy foods.
Heartburn and indigestion are often used interchangeably. But, it is important to understand that heartburn is a symptom of indigestion. Eating certain foods can cause some discomfort in the belly, resulting in digestive pain and heartburn.
In a lot of cases, heartburn is also caused due to acid reflux, a condition in which some of the stomach’s content is forced back up into the esophagus. If the acid reflux happens more than two times a week, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, approximately 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day.
Common causes of heartburn
If one experiences occasional heartburn, then it is generally not a cause for concern.
Persistent acid reflux may result in the diagnosis of GERD, which can have serious consequences for health or may indicate another underlying health issue.
However, conditions such as digestive motility disorders, hiatal hernia, diabetes or asthma can also lead to excessive heartburn. Certain medications, such as anti-anxiety pills, steroids, antibiotics, and narcotics, can also trigger heartburn.
Some ways to prevent heartburn
There are plenty of ways to prevent this unpleasant and discomforting condition from occurring, such as the following:
- Avoid excessively acidic and spicy foods
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Not wearing very tight clothes, especially around the waist
- Eating regulated portions of food
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding constipation
- Getting adequate rest and reduce stress
- Consuming warm liquids after meals
- Waiting for 3 hours after eating before going to the bed or lying down
Treatment of heartburn
Treatment for heartburn and indigestion usually begins with making certain lifestyle and dietary modifications.
In case, one experiences occasional bouts of heartburn, one can take some over-the-counter medicines for getting instant relief. These medicines are broadly classified into three categories:
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- H2 blockers.
Antacids help in neutralizing stomach acid, offering quick relief from the symptoms of heartburn, and PPIs and H2 blockers decrease the amount of acid released by the stomach.
Apart from these medicines, there are some simple treatments that help in relieving the symptoms of heartburn. They are as follows:
Standing up straight
A straight and upright posture puts less pressure on the LES, i.e. lower esophageal sphincter. This LES is a group of muscles that prevent the acid in the stomach from rising up into the esophagus.
So, an upright posture at all times should be maintained. Also, if one is sitting or lying down, standing up and walking a little for some time helps to ease heartburn.
Ginger is great for easing heartburn and indigestion. It is an excellent folk remedy that offers relief to a lot of people.
A small quantity of grated ginger can be added to one’s favorite foods and stir-fried recipes to find comfort. One can also sip ginger tea by adding dried ginger roots or ginger tea bag into boiling water.
It is important to note that ginger ale, on the contrary, can trigger heartburn. Such carbonated beverages usually contain artificial flavors that cause discomfort in the body.
Mixing baking soda with water
If one is experiencing heartburn and indigestion, taking some baking soda is helpful. The amazing ingredient works wonders by neutralizing the stomach acid.
One teaspoon of baking soda mixed into a glass of water and drinking it slowly is a great remedy.
Trying licorice supplements
Licorice root has long been used to treat the symptoms of heartburn. It is believed that licorice reinforces the mucous coating of the esophageal tube lining, which protects the esophagus from the damage caused by the stomach acid.
Therefore, one can take some licorice supplements to strengthen the system and prevent episodes of heartburn. But licorice can also at times raise one’s blood pressure or interfere with certain medications. So it is best to consult a doctor before taking these supplements.
According to a study, chewing gum for half an hour after every meal can help to reduce heartburn and indigestion. This is because these gums stimulate saliva production that helps in clearing all stomach acid from the esophagus.
In maximum cases of heartburn, taking over-the-counter medicines, making lifestyle modifications and using simple home remedies can prove to be helpful.
In case, one experiences frequent cases of heartburn, i.e. two or three times a week, it is imperative to consult the doctor. A doctor does a close examination of the condition and can prescribe a suitable line of treatment.