Sometimes we experience heart burn, especially after eating spicy or fatty foods. The chest starts to hurt so much that it feels like it is on a fire. However for many people, persistent heart burn and other symptoms stem from more serious, chronic condition known as gastro esophageal reflux or GERD.
Normally, during the digestion process, a circular band of muscle located between the esophagus and stomach widens to allow food to enter the stomach and then tightens. But when this muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter, weakens or relaxes in appropriately, acidic digestive juices in the stomach can flow back up, or reflux, into the esophagus. Unlike the stomach, the esophagus does not have a protective barrier against the acid. As a result, reflux to the esophagus that is often perceived as heart burn-an uncomfortable, burning sensation behind the breast bone.
Occasional heartburn tends to occur after heavy medals, eaten late in the evening or consisting of high fat or spicy foods. Generally, there is no need to panic. Everybody can have a little heart burn. However it does not signify a disease. Nevertheless if the heartburn occurs two times a week or more, there are chances that the person is suffering from GERD.
GERD affects mostly those in their 40s or older. However, it can affect people of all ages, including children.
How to prevent Heart burn?
- Control your weight:- being overweight is one of the strongest risk factors for heart burn; excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up into your esophagus.
- Eat smaller meals:– this reduces pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, helping to prevent the valve from opening and acid from washing back into your esophagus
- Loosen your belt:– clothes that fit tightly around your waist put pressure on your abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Eliminate heart burn triggers:- everyone has specific triggers. Common triggers such as fatty or fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, garlic, onion, caffeine and nicotine may make heartburn worse.
- Avoid stooping or bending:– tying your shoes is ok. Bending over for longer periods to weed your garden isn’t, especially soon after eating
- Don’t lie down after meal:– wait at least 3 to 4 hours after eating before going to bed, and don’t lie down right after eating.
- Raise the head of your bed:– an elevation of about six to nine inches puts gravity to work for you. You can do this by placing wooden or cement blocks under the feet at the head of your bed. If it is not possible to elevate your bed, you can insert a wedge between your matress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. Wedges are available at drugstore and medical supply stores. Raising your head only by using pillows is not a good alternative.
- Don’t smoke:– smoking may increase stomach acid. The swallowing of air during smoking may also aggravate belching and acid reflux. In addition, smoking and alcohol, increase your risk of esophageal cancer
Home remedies to get relief from heartburn
- Drinking a glass of milk
You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it’s true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid.
Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, however, it’s a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skim milk and don’t overdo it. Drink no more than 8 ounces of skim milk at a time — as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.
- Soothe your stomach with aloe juice
Aloe is a plant used to soothe burns, and people often think of using it to help something like sunburn, but it can do more than that. It may be able to help with heartburn too because it reduces inflammation. This means when your tummy starts getting irritated and inflamed, or your esophagus is getting eaten away at, a nice glass of aloe vera juice may be just the thing to help calm it down.
- Eat a banana or an apple
Bananas contain natural antacids that can act as a buffer against acid reflux. If you want to try out the simplest home remedies for heartburn first, try letting a few bananas ripen up nicely and eating one every day. Another option is to try an apple a day. Slice one up and eat it a couple of couple of hours before bedtime to relieve or prevent discomfort
- Chew gum
The Journal of Dental Research conducted a study that showed people with symptoms of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic heartburn, experienced relief when they chewed a piece of sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after a meal. This is because chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands, and increases the flow of saliva. Any acid that has built up in the gut is diluted and washed away or cleared out more quickly. The clearance of acid then improves the symptoms of GERD. It is possible that the same school of thought could be applied to occasional heartburn as well. It’s our regular saliva that we swallow that actually makes normal bouts of reflux here and there completely painless. After a meal, pop in a piece of sugar-free gum and chew for 30 minutes to help ward off heartburn.