What is heartburn?
Despite its name, heartburn does not affect the heart. Heartburn is a burning sensation on the chest. Heartburn is quite common. Heartburn happens when the lower oesophageal sphincter or LES (a flap that opens only to allow food and liquid to pass down) does not function properly, allowing stomach acid to flow backwards into the oesophagus.
Unlike the stomach, the oesophagus does not have any layer that protects it from stomach acids. So when oesophagus is exposed to stomach acids, it became inflamed and painful. Over time, this can lead to swelling, ulcers or even oesophagus cancer. Continual bouts of heartburn can be a symptom of acid reflux, commonly known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Many things can lead to LES malfunction. These include smoking, caffeine, eating large meals, hiatal
hernia, obesity and alcohol.
Symptoms of Heartburn
Symptoms can be a combination of the following:
• Burning sensation in the chest and throat, typically half to one hour after meals.
• Food or liquid reversing its flow
• Bitter or sour taste in the mouth
• Vomiting blood
• Difficulty in swallowing food
• Sore throat
Should I avoid any food?
Avoid food that affects muscle tension of LES, whichallows it to stay open longer than usual, such as peppermints, chocolates, fatty and fried foods. Avoid food that irritates the damaged lining of oesophagus, such as tomato based products, citrus fruits (lemon, grapefruits) and spicy foods.
Simple tips to relieve heartburn:
• Raise the head of your bed 6 inches higher
• Avoid going to bed after meal for the next 2 to 3 hours
• Avoid food that worsens heartburn
• If you smoke, stop.
• Exercise to lose weight
• Wear loose fitting clothes
• Eat small, frequent meals
Many cases of heartburn can be prevented by simple lifestyle modifications in diet, activities, habits and good supplementation. Watching what kinds of foods you eat and how much you eat can influence your symptoms. Following the tips above not only helps to improve your heartburn symptoms but also your overall health.
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