No matter how much you love a certain meal, the threat of heartburn afterwards can keep you from indulging in it.
For some people, heartburn can be mild and manageable – but for others, it can be excruciating. So if heartburn is hindering your enjoyment of food, it might be time to think about making some lifestyle changes. First, you need to understand what causes heartburn and how you can handle it.
Causes of heartburn
The food you consume travels down your digestive tract before getting to your stomach, where digestive acids are produced. The valve that separates your oesophagus from your stomach is meant to close, to keep these acids out of your gut. In some people, however, this valve can be faulty; that means that stomach acids creep into your oesophagus, causing acid reflux. Not everyone who suffers from acid reflux will have heartburn, but it is a common symptom.
Anyone can suffer from heartburn, but it is usually more prevalent among people who are overweight, smokers and people who wear tight-fitting clothes. Some people may also find that particular foods – for instance, a cheesy pizza or a spicy curry – bring on heartburn more than others.
Simple heartburn remedies
It’s easy to reach for antacids and Alka-Seltzer when you suffer from heartburn. But you should also consider making lifestyle and diet changes so you can avoid taking these home medicines altogether. Start by keeping track of what you eat, and monitoring when heartburn attacks. It doesn’t have to mean avoiding your favourite foods altogether, but making certain substitutions – for example, eating milder curries rather than spicy ones, or opting for wholegrain pasta and rice – could help.
Changing your drinking habits can also have an effect. Try drinking less alcohol, particularly late at night, and consuming more water, which can help improve the digestive process.
If you tend to suffer from heartburn at night, consider eating dinner earlier in the evening so that your stomach has had plenty of time to digest your food before you go to bed. Some people find that sleeping on a wedge-shaped pillow can help too, as it keeps acids in your stomach and prevents them travelling up your oesophagus. Sleeping on your left-side has been shown to help too, though this might not work for everyone.
Wearing loose-fitting clothes – leggings, instead of fitted jeans, for instance – can also make a difference, as it relieves the pressure on your stomach. And if you’re overweight, losing as little as a kilogram can help relieve heartburn symptoms.
Seeing a doctor
If making these small changes hasn’t improved your heartburn, it might be time to see a doctor. Your GP might prescribe a range of over the counter medicines, like H2 blockers, or prescription drugs like proton pump inhibitors. A few people with very severe heartburn may require surgery, but this course of action is relatively uncommon.
What are your best tips for handling heartburn?
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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor
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