What is heartburn? It’s a burning sensation in your chest. This sensation occurs when stomach acid forces its way into your oesophagus (acid reflux). The stomach acid then irritates your oesophagus lining to give you the burning sensation.
This condition, though common, is ignored by many people globally. Most people tend to use over-the-counter antacids to deal with this issue. Heartburn, however, can be a nuisance if it becomes a persistent problem. It becomes even worse if it fails to resolve with over-the-counter antacids.
Let’s talk about the common causes of heartburn and see how we can manage it.
What are the common heartburn causes?
Among some causes of heartburn, the following are the main causes:
Overeating. Too much food in your stomach displaces some of the stomach acids. The displaced acid forces its way into your oesophagus to cause a burning sensation.
Having too much belly fat can compress your stomach. When this happens, your stomach contents will be pushed into your oesophagus to cause heartburn.
Excessive alcohol intake. The feeling effect of too much wine and beer in the stomach can displace your gastric contents into your oesophagus. Furthermore, alcohol relaxes your lower oesophagal sphincter. This makes it easy for your stomach contents to spill into the oesophagus.
Consuming too much caffeine and carbonated beverages. Caffeine and carbonated soft drinks weaken your lower oesophagal sphincter. Too much of such drinks put you at high risk for heartburn. In addition, carbonated drinks have high belching effects. Belching is associated with acid reflux especially when your stomach is extra full.
Cigarette smoking weakens your oesophagal sphincter muscles making it easy for stomach acid to spill into your oesophagus. Besides, smoking reduces the effectiveness of saliva in neutralizing stomach acid.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that enter your body and live in your digestive tract. Bacteria aim to attack the lining of the stomach, which is a protective layer from the stomach acid. Therefore, as the stomach lining is damaged, it leads to appearing of ulcers.
In some cases, H. pylori can cause heartburn symptoms as well. In many cases, people won’t realize that they have H. pylori and may live with it without any complications. But in the case of ulcers and stomach pain, it is a very time to see a doctor. Otherwise, it may cause serious complications.
Hiatal hernia. The diaphragm is a large muscle that separates your stomach from your chest, thus keeping the stomach acid from refluxing. A hiatal hernia, therefore, occurs when the upper part of your stomach moves above the diaphragm. As a result, the hernia makes acid reflux more likely to happen, thus causing heartburn.
Natural ways of managing heartburn
Natural remedies for heartburn are better than synthetic meds. This is because natural remedies are affordable and they don’t bring you unnecessary complications. Well, let’s look at what to eat, what to avoid, and what to do when having heartburn.
Products to consume while having heartburn
If you have recurring heartburn, you need to hold to a particular diet. Most importantly, you need to pick up the products that suit you best. Thus, the products that may help your friend may not suit you and that is ok. So, let’s look at the products that most often help relieve heartburn symptoms. Note, that these are not the only products you can consume, but those that reduce a burning feeling in your chest.
Vegetables. You need to eat broccoli, asparagus, kales, and spinach among other vegetables. Vegetables are low in sugar and fats. This makes them extremely essential in reducing stomach acid.
Oatmeal. Oatmeal is composed of more than enough fibre. Fibre aids in the transportation of your digestive tract contents. This helps relieve the pressure in your stomach hence lowering the risk of acid reflux. Moreover, oatmeal absorbs excess acid in your stomach hence relieving the symptoms of heartburn.
Fat-free skim milk is rich in calcium, a mineral known to neutralize stomach acid. Fat-free milk and milk products are essential for this purpose since they don’t contain fat that stimulates acid production in your stomach.
Ginger is a natural digestive aid. It speeds up the digestion process hence relieving the stomach of its content and pressure. This lowers the risk of acid reflux. Additionally, ginger possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Such properties make it able to reduce the severity of symptoms resulting from acid irritation of the oesophagus.
Liquorice is a plant known to increase the amount of mucus lining on your oesophagus. This lining functions to protect your oesophagus from the corrosive effects of stomach acid. You will eventually experience less severe symptoms of heartburn.
Seafood and lean meat are products that are low in fat. They will, therefore, give you a soothing sensation when you are suffering from heartburn.
Melons and bananas are fruits with a small amount of acid. They will suit your needs when you are suffering from heartburn. However, you need to try a little bit of these fruits first to assess if they suit you or not.
Products to avoid eating when you have heartburn
Citrus fruits and drinks. Citrus fruits such as orange, lemon, and clementine among others are rich in citric acid. This makes these fruits and their juices highly acidic. Consuming them will worsen your heartburn.
Spicy foods are rich in capsaicin, a compound that slows your digestion process. This delays stomach emptying and therefore predisposing you to more acid reflux. Besides, capsaicin irritates your oesophagus, worsening your heartburn-associated symptoms.
Fatty foods include fried dishes and foods like egg yolk. Fat stimulates more acid production from your stomach walls. Moreover, fat slows down food digestion in your stomach. This predisposes you to acid reflux and eventually aggravates your heartburn-associated symptoms. As if that isn’t all, fat interferes with the functioning of your lower oesophagal sphincter making it easy for your stomach contents to spill into the oesophagus.
Garlic, onions, and tomatoes. These foods relax your lower oesophagal sphincter predisposing you to acid reflux. Moreover, eating raw onions irritates your oesophagal lining hence aggravating heartburn-related symptoms. Furthermore, onions and garlic have high amounts of fermentable fibre. When this fibre is broken down a lot of gas is released. This contributes to belching that’s often accompanied by acid reflux. This can severely worsen your heartburn.
A high carb diet means there will be some undigested carbs in your gut. This contributes to bacteria overgrowth with a lot of gas released into your gut. Eventually, your abdominal pressure will increase. Increase in abdominal pressure will lead to stomach compression and acid reflux into your oesophagus. This will aggravate the symptoms.
Whole milk is rich in fat, which stimulates acid production in your stomach. Thus consuming whole milk can worsen heartburn.
Chocolate has a compound called methylxanthine. This compound relaxes your lower oesophagal sphincter. This makes it easy for stomach contents to get into your oesophagus.
Lifestyle remedies for heartburn
Knowing what to eat and what to avoid eating isn’t enough. You may also need to apply changes to your lifestyle and adopt them to cure heartburn naturally and to avoid it from recurring.
- Eat small amounts of food at a particular time.
- Assume an upright posture while eating.
- Avoid eating close to bedtime.
- Use a pillow to elevate your head while sleeping.
- Exercise regularly so that you can reduce weight.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- Avoid smoking.
- Reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks.
- Avoid tight wears, especially at the waist.
When should you consider natural remedies as the only treatment option for your heartburn?
The following are circumstances that don’t demand a prompt visit to a doctor:
- The only symptoms you experience are belching and a burning sensation in your chest.
- The heartburn is responsive to natural treatment options.
- The heartburn doesn’t inconvenience you in any way.
When should you consult a physician with a heartburn condition?
The following are circumstances that should trigger a prompt visit to a physician:
- The lifestyle remedies or over-the-counter treatment medications fail in managing the heartburn.
- The heartburn persists for more than 3 weeks.
- There are difficulties in swallowing food.
- You start losing weight.
- There can be changes in your voice.
- You start experiencing symptoms like bad breath and bloating.
Some of these circumstances indicate the onset of heartburn complications. You, therefore, shouldn’t hesitate to visit a doctor.
In a nutshell
Thankfully, there are many ways we can soothe heartburn. However frequent, this disease should never be overlooked as it is a true indication that something is going wrong with our health. If the natural remedies fail, and you notice some weird signs developing, you should better not to delay your visit to a doctor.