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Is your heart burning? Find ways to stop it

Health experts describe heart burn as a discomfort or pain caused by the stomach contents travelling up from the stomach up into the gullet (lower…

Health experts describe heart burn as a discomfort or pain caused by the stomach contents travelling up from the stomach up into the gullet (lower part of your esophagus). The gullet is not made to withstand acid and is irritated and inflamed when acid from the stomach travels up into it.

Despite the name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It’s a digestive problem that occurs when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of the esophagus, causing irritation. Most people suffer from heartburn occasionally, usually after a meal. How do you know when your condition is considered chronic?

If you have heartburn once a month, it’s considered mild. If you have heartburn once a week, it’s moderate. It’s when your heartburn occurs daily that it’s considered to be severe.

About 20% of all adults will have heartburn at least once a month. They can manage these uncomfortable episodes with a change in diet, over-the-counter antacids and weight lose. Even those who suffer from moderate heartburn can often find relief with these remedies. But for five to fifteen percent of adults, their heartburn is severe. For them, the above-mentioned remedies give only partial or temporary relief.

What Causes Heartburn?

Health experts say heartburn is caused when stomach acid refluxes–backs up–into the esophagus. This can occur for a number of reasons:

•    When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that keeps stomach acid in the stomach, is weakened or relaxed and doesn’t do its job properly. This is the most common symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

•    Certain foods, such as chocolate, fried and fatty foods, peppermint, coffee, alcohol, sugars, can weaken or relax the LES.

•    Eating large meals or shortly before bedtime.

•    A hiatal hernia.

•    Pressure on the stomach, including frequent bending over, tight clothes, lifting, obesity.

•    Certain medications.

•    Smoking.

•    Stress can increase acid production and slow down the emptying of the stomach.

Managing Heartburn

You can find relief from heartburn with a few self-care remedies. This involves making a few lifestyle and diet changes.

Here are a few suggestions prescribed by health experts

•    Eat frequent smaller meals instead of three larger ones.

This will help prevent excessive production of stomach acid.

•    Eat slowly.

One way to help you slow down while eating is to put your fork or spoon down between bites.

•    Don’t go to bed with a full stomach.

Stay up at least three hours after eating your last meal or large snack before going to bed. This gives acid levels a chance to decrease before your body is in a position where heartburn is more likely to occur.

•    Raise the head of your bed several inches.

With your head elevated, it will help prevent reflux during the night.

•    Avoid your heartburn triggers.

Examples of foods and beverages that can trigger heartburn are coffee, alcohol, fatty foods, caffeine-containing beverages and foods, onions, peppermint, chocolate, citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes.

•    Stop smoking.

Nicotine can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that controls the opening between the esophagus and stomach and prevents the acid-containing contents of the stomach from entering the esophagus.

•    Wear loose-fitting clothes.

Tight clothing squeezes the midsection and tends to push stomach contents upward.

•    Lose weight.

If you are overweight, losing weight can help relieve your symptoms.

•    Chew gum.

Chewing gum can provide short-term heartburn relief by stimulating the production of saliva, which dilutes and flushes out stomach acid.

•    Drink warm liquids.

Drinking a glass of lukewarm water or herbal tea after a meal can dilute and flush out stomach acid.