TALKING MEDICINE : Few tips on how to deal with heartburn

Monday November 7 2016

Dr Ivone Mwakasege is a Medical Officer based

Dr Ivone Mwakasege is a Medical Officer based in Egypt.  

By Dr Ivone Mwakasege

A heartburn is that burning sensation in your chest and throat which may come with a sour taste in your mouth.

Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. The esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to the stomach) has a tight band of muscles at the lower end that closes after the food enters your stomach and prevents the stomach contents to back up to the esophagus.

If this sphincter weakens or relaxes at the wrong time or if you have eaten foods which led to increase stomach acid production, it can cause acid from the stomach to go up to the esophagus, and hence heartburn.

In most cases of heartburns, you will not need to see a health-care professional.

With the exception that if you have heartburn more than twice in a week or it is severe or the pain is accompanied with additional symptoms such as shortness of breath, radiation into your arms or neck difficulty swallowing, chronic cough and stomach pain in the upper abdomen.

So what should you do about it?

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• Avoid foods that trigger heartburn. They differ from person to person. Common foods and drinks include alcohol, caffeinated drinks like Cola, coffee, and tea; chocolate and cocoa; peppermint; garlic; onions; milk; fatty, spicy, greasy, or fried foods; and acidic foods like citrus or tomato products. Keep a food diary to help you track which foods may trigger your heartburn.

• To reduce nighttime heartburn, mind your sleeping habits. Don’t sleep just after eating; you should wait for at least three hours since last meal and to sleep on your left side.

• If you are overweight, Lose weight. Heartburn often just gets worse as you gain weight.

• Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight clothes, especially near your waist, can put pressure on your stomach, leading to heartburn symptoms.

• Stop smoking.

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