Doctors say that occasional heartburn is nothing to worry about – common antacids are good enough to treat it – but if it happens more than twice a week, one must not ignore it.
Have you ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest after you have consumed a meal? Do you, at times, feel as though the food you have eaten is coming back up your throat, leaving a sour unpleasant taste in your mouth? Called ‘heartburn’ in common language and ‘acid reflux’ in medical parlance, it is a condition in which some contents of the stomach are forced back into the food pipe.
Doctors say that occasional heartburn is nothing to worry about – common antacids are good enough to treat it – but if it happens more than twice a week, one must not ignore it. “A long standing acid reflux which does not go even after taking antacids is called GERD, which needs medical intervention,” says Dr Manish Kak, Senior Consultant (Gastroenterologist), Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
"Faulty lifestyle, wrong eating habits and stress, are the main reasons, but in some cases it is due to hiatus hernia – a condition in which the valve that separates the food pipe and stomach is weak and can be pushed open," he adds. Cautioning further, Dr Kak says that continual neglect of acid reflux damages the food pipe (a condition called Barret’s Oesophagus ), causes ulcer formation, blood in vomiting, which may further lead to cancer.
"Sometimes, the acid induced damage causes the food pipe to shrink. Such people will have difficulty in swallowing food instead of having a heartburn," he says, adding that just like any other disease the resolution lies in catching it early. Dr Kak informs that he gets as many as 10- 15 patients every day with complaints of heartburn, some as young as 15 years of age.
"In a month, I get over 300 patients with acid reflux. The problem seems to be increasing as people are careless about their health, eat lots of junk food and have no fixed eating times," he says, adding, "Studies have shown that acid reflux is more common in females than males, for the simple reason that women don’t take care of themselves and also take a lot of stress."
- Maintain a healthy weight; include exercise in your daily routine.
- Stop stressing over small things. Stress reduction results in a dramatic reduction in the severity of symptoms.
- Take shorter meals at small intervals, and finish dinner at least three hours before going to bed.
- Take a leisurely walk after each meal.
- Say no to night-time snacks. Night-time acid reflux is more harmful. If you have this, try placing blocks under the legs of your bed to raise the head about six inches.
- Sleep on your left side, instead of right.
- Go for boiled food instead of deep fried.
- Research shows that chewing non-mint sugar-less gum for 30 minutes after a meal lowers the risk.
- Eating large meals or eating too late at night, and then lying down after eating.
- Excess consumption of tomato, onion, garlic, mint, and citrus foods.
- Eating fatty and fried foods, unhealthy snacks, particularly late at night.
- Smoking, excess consumption of alcohol and coffee.
- Wearing tight-fitting clothes.
- Medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and the ones that control high blood pressure can trigger it.