Heartburn occurs when a muscular valve, called the lower espophageal sphincter functions improperly, which allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. This tube, which leads from the stomach to the throat can be greatly effected by stomach acid, causing a burning, painful sensation in this area.
Lack of proper enzymes are also a cause. Heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux are all usually defined by a vague chest or abdominal discomfort or burning in the solar plexus area, with no apparent organic cause, that occurs during or soon after eating, drinking, or stressful situations.
About 20% of all adults get heartburn at least once a month. Between 5% -15% of adults have severe heartburn. About 25% of pregnant women have daily heartburn and 50% have heartburn at least once a month.
The Impact of Chronic Acid Reflux, Heartburn
Constant reflux can cause serious problems because the acid is irritating delicate tissue. This can lead to other serious situations such as Peptic Ulcer, Hiatal Hernia and Esophageal Structure.
Chronic heartburn may be a sign of GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, with recurrent abnormal reflux of stomach acid. This condition can damage the lining of the esophagus, causing such problems as ulceration and even esophageal cancer.
Do get a doctor’s or practitioner’ s opinion to see if further treatment is necessary.
Observe episodes of indigestion for changes in symptoms. If character, timing, frequency or severity changes, a more serious disorder may be responsible. These include heartburn from irritation of the lower esophagus, gallbladder disease, ulcers or stomach cancer.
Obesity seems to increase the risk of GERD. Research documented in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that as body fat increases, so did symptoms of GERD.
Heartburn symptoms in some people can cause chronic cough, asthma, wheezing or choking.
Heartburn at night appears to be worse than heartburn during the day. According to research in Chest, people have more trouble sleeping at night because of the pain they experience from the heartburn. Acid stays in the esophagus longer when one lies flat.
Although food is not the root cause of heartburn, it can aggravate the situation. Foods such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruits, alcohol, soda, coffee and fatty foods can worsen heartburn symptoms. A bland diet will not cure heartburn.
Aspirin and Ibuprofen can aggravate heartburn.
Top 20 Tips for Helping Heartburn:
1. Over all lifestyle changes. Stress can aggravate this situation.
2. Change in diet can greatly decrease symptoms. (See foods above). Write down what you eat in a heartburn journal in order to identify which foods trigger pain.
3. Allow time for leisurely meals. Chew food carefully and thoroughly. Avoid conflicts during meals.
4. Avoiding refined carbohydrates (sugar, white rice, white bread), even honey & other “natural” sugars, except Stevia. Reduce acid production so that even if the reflux occurs there is less to irritate the esophagus.
5. Eat small frequent meals so pressure in the stomach does not push contents back up.
6. Do not eat late at night. Allow several hours of digestion time before laying down. Acid stays in the esophagus longer when one lies flat. Stay propped up at least 30-45 degrees after eating or drinking & while sleeping. By placing 2 in. blocks under the two legs of your bed at the headboard, can helped tremendously!
7. Avoid caffeine for a while.
8. Peppermint, which helps many digestive problems, can irritate reflux because it may cause spasms of the cardiac valve.
9. Avoid excitement or exercise immediately after a meal. Avoid situations that make you swallow air, such as exercising with your mouth open (breathing through your mouth) or chewing gum.
10. Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, controlled breathing and stress reduction.
11. At first sign of heartburn, drink a large glass of water.
12. Antacids are an over the counter medicine that relieves heartburn temporarily by neutralizing stomach acid. Dependence on antacids are dangerous. They can mask serious problems if symptoms persist. Antacids can also interact with certain prescription drugs and HIV medications. Check with your pharmacist or doctor.
13. Stop Smoking. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can weaken the lower espophageal sphincter and worsen heartburn.
14. If you have a juicer, juice a raw potato, peel and all, then add an equal part of water to the juice and drink it immediately after preparation, 3 times a day.
15. Fresh papaya and its seeds (or Papaya tablets) can be eaten to help with digestion.
16. The enzymes in pineapple are also good for digestion but, this is an acidic fruit and for some people is not the right choice. It depends on the individual.
17. Aloe Vera juice is incredible for healing of the intestinal tract.
18. Vitamin B complex, 50 mgs, 3 times daily with meals is needed for proper digestion.
19. Plus 200 mcg of Vitamin B 12, 3 times daily will enhance the Vitamin B complex.
20. Acupressure massage. At the first sign of heartburn, massage the acupressure point between your solar plexus and navel. Massage this point first, gently in a clockwise motion and then slowly work deeper. This can actually relieve heartburn pressure and pain for months!
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- 1. Annals of Internal Medicine
- 2. Chest Journal
- 3. The Cleveland Clinic
- 4. The National Institute of Health