Heartburn might be a common problem, but this doesn’t make it any less distressing for sufferers. If you regularly experience this sharp, unpleasant sensation, it might be having a major impact on your quality of life.
The important thing is not to assume that heartburn is simply an unavoidable part of life. By being proactive, you can tackle the problem. At the very least, you can reduce the symptoms.
What is exactly is it?
Before you start thinking about combating heartburn, it’s a good idea to get to grips with what the health condition actually is. The technical term for heartburn is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Although this is a bit of a mouthful, the problem is essentially quite simple.
It’s caused by a failure of a muscle (called the oesophageal sphincter) that sits at the bottom of your gullet. This muscle should act like a valve, opening to allow food and drink in and then shutting to prevent leakage. If you suffer from heartburn, this value isn’t doing its job properly. Rather than sealing the contents of your stomach in, it’s allowing acid to leak out.
Common symptoms include heartburn and acid reflux, which you might recognise as an unpleasant taste in your mouth. The condition can also cause difficulty and pain when swallowing.
The good news is, there are things you can do to reduce your pain and discomfort. For example, if you are overweight, try to slim down. This will help to lessen the pressure on your stomach. Giving up cigarettes can help too as smoking is known to irritate the digestive system.
Your diet and eating habits can also have an impact on this aspect of your health. Try to avoid eating large meals. Small, frequent meals are much better than three larger meals. Also, it’s helpful to have your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed.
Limit the number of potentially irritating foods you consume too. For example, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, spicy food and alcohol are all known to contribute to heartburn. You don’t have to cut these products out of your meals completely, but reducing your intake may be important.
It can also help to raise the head of your bed by around 20cm. If you do this, use wooden blocks and don’t simply add more pillows. This is because using additional pillows can place more pressure on your abdomen.
Seek medical help
There are many more home remedies for heartburn that you can find online. However, if you can’t tackle the problem yourself, it’s time to seek medical help. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications. He or she will also be able to tell you if any of your existing medications could be contributing to the problem. Bear in mind that, depending on the cause of your heartburn, you might need surgery.
Taking action to address this medical complaint can help you to boost your quality of life, so it really is well worth making the effort.