Some ailments are great cause for alarm. Others may seem very dangerous and can cause you to panic, but there is actually nothing to worry about. Heartburn falls into the latter category. Let’s take a closer look at what heartburn is, the heartburn causes that you can learn to avoid, and the several methods of heartburn treatment and prevention.
You may have ascertained from the name that heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest area. Heartburn is also known as acid reflux, which is a more accurate name for this condition. The discomfort of heartburn is generally felt behind the breastbone, and no, it has nothing to do with your heart. Heartburn is actually the repercussions of problems with your digestive system. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Heartburn is easily managed and often does not even really require a visit to the doctor, although this is always recommended. But if you suffer from consistent heartburn on a regular basis or if your heartburn is starting to interfere with your quality of life, then you should definitely relate your symptoms to your doctor and get a full check up as it may be an indication of a more serious underlying health problem, especially if heartburn is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain the chest, arm or jaw, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.
The pain of heartburn is felt more intensely if you bend over or lie down. This is why most people who suffer from heartburn have trouble sleeping. Heartburn can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Most people have a sour, bitter taste in their mouths when they experience heartburn.
So why does heartburn occur? What could be the cause of the sometimes unbearable pain of heartburn? As mentioned earlier, heartburn actually has something to do with your digestive system. Heartburn occurs when the acids from your stomach – the ones that break down the food you eat – back up into your esophagus – the tube that carries the food that you eat to your stomach. The powerful stomach acids can irritate the esophagus in some people and cause the pain and intense discomfort of heartburn.
But what causes the stomach acids to back up in the first place, thus contributing to heartburn causes? The esophagus has a mechanism in place to prevent the acids from the stomach coming into contact with the esophagus. This mechanism is called the lower esophageal sphincter or the LES. The LES opens up temporarily when you swallow so that the food you are eating can travel to the stomach. But it closes up again immediately. However, at times the LES can get weakened or not work properly, which causes the sphincter to remain partially open or not close at all, thus allowing the stomach acids to reach the esophagus and cause the burning sensation that we perceive as heartburn.
Of course, our line of questioning heartburn causes must continue as we ask what causes the LES to get weaken or relaxed. Following are some of the main heartburn causes that are known and accepted by the medical community
- Eating a very large meal is one of the main heartburn causes. When you eat too much, there may not be enough space in your stomach to accommodate the massive amounts of food you have ingested or the stomach acids may react to an extreme to digest the massive amounts of food. In either case, the body may allow the LES to relax a little so that food can be expelled (through vomiting, for example) if it is too much for the stomach to take.
- Having spicy and greasy foods is one of the more frequent heartburn causes.
- Certain foods are known to cause the LES to relax. These foods can thus be held accountable for being one of the heartburn causes. The offending food items include carbonated drinks, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, coffee, onion and peppermint.
- Smoking is now starting too accepted as one of the valid heartburn causes.
- Stress also is being seen as one of the valid heartburn causes since it can increase the production of stomach acids and prevent normal digestion from occurring.
- If you wear tight clothes that cut into your stomach or if there is any kind of frequent pressure on your stomach from, say, bending too often or lifting heavy loads, one of these may be the heartburn causes for your situation. Obesity is another of the heartburn causes that falls into this category since the extra weight on the body puts loads of pressure on all the organs, the stomach being one of them.
- One of the other heartburn causes is habitually eating before bedtime. Your body tends to go into downtime when it knows bedtime is near. The organs start to take it easy and all your bodily processes slow down in anticipation of sleep. When you eat before bedtime, it puts great strain on your organs and stomach to digest the food, and since your body has already readied itself for sleep, it’s natural instinct will be to want to get rid of the food. This is why the LES may weaken in response.
- Lack of sleep can also be one of the heartburn causes.
- Other heartburn causes include digestion problems like constipation.
- Some pharmaceutical medications like aspirin, sedatives and anti-depressants have been known to be the causes of heartburn. Speak to your doctor if you are on any medication to ascertain whether or not it puts you at higher risk for the condition.
- Medical conditions such as a hiatal hernia or scleroderma may also be one of the heartburn causes.
Suffering from heartburn is unpleasant and can really hamper the quality of life if left unchecked. Fortunately, this condition does not have to be around forever. You can tackle heartburn with simple lifestyle changes for heartburn treatment, as well as medication for heartburn treatment. Whatever heartburn treatment you choose, you should seriously consider the root of your heartburn and take steps to avoid heartburn altogether. Not because the condition is serious, but because it is an indication of an unhealthy lifestyle and an unbalanced diet, which is a pretty obvious risk factor for several other more serious health problems. But without further ado, here are some heartburn treatment options that you can easily incorporate to get rid of heartburn.
Lifestyle and Natural Remedies for Heartburn Treatment
- The basic heartburn treatment requires that you do not eat spicy or fried foods at least while you are suffering from heartburn as this only exacerbates the condition. You may go back to eating spicy and fried foods after you have successfully tackled your heartburn, but only on rare occasions and in limited quantities.
- Instead of eating three large meals in a day, try eating five to six smaller meals. Not only is this one of the most effective heartburn treatments, it can solve a host of other health problems as well. It’s also a great way to lose weight, which will further contribute to keeping heartburn at bay. Speaking of which…
- If you are overweight or obese, then one of the methods of heartburn treatment for your will include shedding the extra pounds. This does not mean that you have to have a toned body and look like a model before you see changes. Research has shown that losing as little as 5 pounds will see the beginnings of reduced instances of heartburn.
- Learn to eat slowly. Chew your food well. If this is too hard for you, put your fork and spoon down a few times during your meal to force yourself to pause. Prolonging meal times is one of the ways of eating less as well as being a great heartburn treatment.
- Apple cider vinegar can also help with heartburn treatment. Stir 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a big glass of water. Drink the concoction as often as possible through the day.
- If you have a mild case of heartburn, coconut water 4 to 5 times a day can be an effective heartburn treatment.
- Chewing on some fennel seeds after meals can also help alleviate the symptoms of heartburn.
- Chewing on basil (tulsi) can also be an effective heartburn treatment.
- Elevate the head of your bed if possible. You can do this by placing a couple of bricks under the legs at the head of your bed. If this is not possible, use several pillows to elevate the position of your head as you sleep.
- Quit smoking. This is not just a heartburn treatment, it is good for your overall health and will further decrease your risk of several other health complications too.
- Drinking some aloe vera juice before your meals can also work as a heartburn treatment.
- Chewing on some sugar-free gum can also be an effective heartburn treatment. The constant chewing will stimulate the salivary glands. More saliva production will help to neutralize the stomach acids to some degree, thus allowing for some relief from heartburn.
- Eat at least three hours before bedtime. And make sure that the last meal of the day is healthy, non-greasy, and non-spicy.
- Through observation and experimentation, you will discover which foods are the triggers to your heartburn. Once you know, simply avoid the foods that cause your heartburn.
- This heartburn treatment is simple and safe. Drink a glass of lukewarm water. Herbal tea also makes a good heartburn treatment. But this will only work in cases of mild heartburn. Chronic heartburn may require a combination of the above remedies, or you may have to resort to medication.
Medical Heartburn Treatment Options
Following are some of the medicines that are prescribed for heartburn treatment.
- Antacids are usually prescribed for heartburn treatment since they neutralize the acids in your stomach and bring quick relief from the effects of heartburn.
- H2 blockers can also be an effective heartburn treatment as they reduce the acid in your stomach, thus helping to lessen the intensity of your heartburn.
- Other medicines that reduce stomach acid and can be used for heartburn treatment include omeprazole, metoclopramide, proton pump inhibitors, and some histamine receptor antagonists.
DO NOT self-medicate. Even if it is over-the-counter medication, consult with a doctor who knows your medical history to hone in on the medication that is right for your heartburn treatment.
If the problem does not exist, you will not have to fix anything. Your goal when it comes to health should ALWAYS be to prevent ailments and disease from setting in in the first place. This may not be a possibility at all times because some diseases and conditions are genetically inherent and there is little you can do to stop them from manifesting in your body. But that still leaves a rather large margin for preventing health problems through lifestyle changes.
- Try to avoid or at least cut down on medication that you know can trigger heartburn. Speak to your doctor about a list of medications that can cause heartburn and steer clear of them.
- Do not wear tight clothing.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get enough sleep, at least 7 hours a night and more whenever possible. Making up for lack of sleep on the weekend is not a good strategy. Try sleeping properly every night.
- Eat a well-balanced meal with minimal spices; avoid fried foods, fatty foods and caffeine.
- Quit smoking.
- Minimize alcohol intake. If possible, do not drink alcohol at all.
- Increase your intake of water throughout the day. Try for at least a liter a day. Break this up into a glass of water every couple of hours if the idea of a liter is too intimidating.
- Avoid binge eating as it puts too much stress on your digestive system and can lead to heartburn.
- Include ginger in your meals as it helps regulate digestion and is known to help with heartburn as well. Read more on Health benefits of ginger.