Heartburn – it seems just about every one that you know has suffered from it at one time in their life. Most will just dismiss it as a minor thing that can be cured with over the counter medications, however it can be tough to live with.
You know what I mean. How many times have you drifted off to sleep only to be woken up suddenly by that awful tasting wet burp that has you sitting bolt upright in an instant.
You feel so uncomfortable when you lay back down with the contents of your stomach wanting to come back up making it almost impossible to get back to sleep.
Or what about that dull annoying chest pain that you sometimes get after eating that tends hang around for an hour or more.
These are just a few of the things that people are willing to put up with, however it can greatly influence the way you live your life if these symptoms occur on a regular basis.
Your sleep is interrupted which can leave you irritable, it can make you slow to react to situations which can cause accidents if you’re not careful.
You may also decide not to pursue certain activities because they can aggravate the heartburn even more. This is NO way to live life – life is meant to be enjoyed.
If you do get the effects of heartburn several times every week or have any concerns you should consult your doctor to rule out any serious medical condition that may be causing it.
If you don’t have a medical condition that is associated with heartburn then there are some simple steps that you can do to reduce and even eliminate heartburn from your life for ever.
Understanding what heartburn is one of the first steps that you can do to help yourself get rid of it or at the very least keep it in control throughout your life.
So What Causes Heartburn?
There are many causes of heartburn, but the basic source is severe stomach acid coming in contact with the oesophageal lining, which is very sensitive, and this causes irritation. That burning irritation in turn causes chest and throat discomfort.
Everybody’s stomach breaks down the food they eat by producing digestive juices that are made up of hydrochloric acid. Stomachs have a sturdy lining which protects them from this acid, but unfortunately the tender oesophagus does not, leaving it vulnerable to the acid’s corrosive properties.
What Causes The Backup Of Stomach Acid?
In a normal digestive system where heartburn does not occur, there is a small valve called the lower oesophageal sphincter, or LES it acts very much like a little one-way door. The LES muscle only allows food and liquid to go downward to the stomach and does not allow any stomach acid come back up.
When your LES muscle fails to function correctly, heartburn (also called acid reflux) happens and most people will also experience pain.
What Does Heartburn Feel Like?
Heartburn can cause a significant amount of pain that burns furiously and seems to originate behind the breastbone and then it migrates up into the throat. It’s that pain that mimics a heart attack in some sufferers.
No matter what you call it, this condition causes a bitter or acidic taste in the back of your throat and can actually make you feel like your food is coming back up.
List below are some of the most common symptoms associated with heartburn. You may experience just one or two of the symptoms or all of them.
You can experience pain at varying levels anywhere from your stomach upward, but most commonly in the throat. This pain can come and go or be constant, can get worse at times or where severe heartburn is experienced the pain will be unbearable.
A burning sensation is caused by the acids coming back up into the oesophagus. It can come up in the form of a burp that gives a burning feeling or it can be a constant and aggravated feeling that does not want to go away.
For some they would say the pain is like having a heart attack for others it would be more of a dull annoying pain accompanied by a burning sensation.
This can bring upon an awful taste in your mouth which can turn into a “wet burp”. In cases of severe heartburn the regurgitation may result in the bringing up of food.
Your throat can become painfully sore with a burning sensation due to the constant aggravation of the stomach acids.
Nausea, Bloating, Stomach Problems Or Even Vomiting
You may see some of the extreme symptoms come about if your heartburn really gets intense but usually these come in conjunction with some of the other symptoms mentioned above.
Everyone is different and just like any other health condition heartburn different for every individual. The symptoms listed above are some of the most common that people will experience. Other factors such as a person’s age, lifestyle, family history or other medical conditions can determine the severity of heartburn.
Things That Can Cause Heartburn
There are certain conditions, factors or items that can cause your heartburn to occur. There may be times where it will happen to you without you knowing why and then there are times when you will notice it getting worse in specific instances.
Listed below are a few instances where you can expect to experience heartburn.
Haven’t we all at one time or another eaten way too much resulting in our stomachs feeling uncomfortable? However if you suffer from heartburn this can cause your symptoms to skyrocket and really make you feel uncomfortable. Over eating makes it harder and takes longer for your stomach to digest the food which can result in your stomach acid returning back up into your oesophagus.
It is common that women can develop heartburn when pregnant and it can start very early in the pregnancy right up until the baby is born. It could be due to the change in hormones or as the baby grows it tends to push on other organs. This may ultimately result in pressure being placed on the stomach which in turn can cause stomach acids to return back up into the oesophagus.
There are some foods that cause heartburn more than others. If you eat too much fast food, consume to much fizzy drinks and combine these with either smoking or drinking alcohol you increase your risk of heartburn.Other heartburn foods to avoid are chocolate and foods high in fat as these are thought to relax the opening to the stomach which holds the acids in the stomach. You can read more about the foods to avoid with heartburn in the section below.
Your Lifestyle and Habits
There are certain habits that can aggravate heartburn more than others. As mentioned before consuming too much alcohol and smoking can make heartburn worse try to quit or reduce these habits. Also other habits such as laying down straight after a meal should be avoided if you find that your heartburn worsens.
Other Health Conditions
Your heartburn may not be triggered by any of the above which are associated with lifestyle but by a health condition. There are certain gastrointestinal disorders that will make heartburn worse. Heartburn may be caused by a hiatal hernia which is where the stomach protrudes a little into the chest through the diaphragm. Ulcers can also cause heartburn.
If you suffer from other health conditions keep an eye out for the common symptoms of heartburn as heartburn may be something to be expected.
What Triggers Heartburn?
Foods To Avoid With Heartburn
Did you know that the biggest cause of heartburn has to do with your diet? You need to listen to your body and pay attention to what foods give you heartburn.
It is important to have a healthy diet for almost every health condition but it is essential when it comes heartburn. The type of food that you eat can make things worse. You may not even be aware that some of the foods that you are eating could be the cause of your discomfort.
Some people may have only one or two trigger foods while there are others will need to make a complete change to their diet in order to prevent a flare up.
It is also essential to remember the foods that cause you heartburn may not be the same foods that cause heartburn for another person as no two cases are the same.
You may discover that it could be about the quantity that you eat. Or hit upon the fact that it may be what you drink causes the irritation and not what you eat.
Everybody’s heartburn trigger can be different, so eliminating all possible triggers, much like with an allergy, and then adding them back one at a time after the recurrences of regular heartburn seems to have subsided, can be a good way to find out which one is your personal heartburn trigger.
List Of Common Foods That Cause Heartburn
Listed below are some of the more common types of foods that can trigger heartburn. You might like to consider looking at these first to see if they are the cause of your heartburn.
These can include simple spices such as black pepper right through to fresh chilli peppers. It can also include spicy cuisines such as Mexican and Indian foods or any dish that contains a lot of spices.
Even though garlic is used in many natural remedies it can cause heartburn in some people.
Citrus Fruits and Pineapple
All of which are known to have a high acidic content can be the cause of heartburn almost instantly when eaten by some people. Eating these or drinking the juice can cause a burning feeling almost immediately for some people.
Fried and Fatty Foods
This is very common and almost one of the first things that a doctor will look to as a possible cause of heartburn. It is not only the issue with fat content but also the way the food has been prepared.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Beans
They are the very best of foods that we all should eat but the ones that cause gas are also the ones that can cause heartburn. So if you do sufferer from heartburn you would be best to avoid these: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage or Brussels sprouts in their raw form as they are harder to digest and beans.
Very similar to citrus fruits these have a high acidic content. You may find that only the raw tomato affects you or it could be tomato based products such as ketchup, tomato juice, tomato sauce or any other product that contains tomato.
Often used by many as a quick morning wake up but if consumed in large and for some the smallest amounts can lead to acid reflux. It is not just limited to coffee, tea, hot cocoa and chocolate can also be a cause.
This is often over looked by many people but it can cause heartburn to appear quickly after drinking or for others it may not materialise until the next day.
So if you suspect that food is the cause of your heartburn but not sure which one, keep a journal of the foods that you eat. Take a note of the type of foods you eat and how your body reacts to them and over time you will soon be able to determine which foods cause you heartburn.
You should then eliminate the foods that are causing you discomfort from your diet altogether or at the very least consume them only once in a while.
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Foods That Help Heartburn
The above foods are a common cause of heartburn so what should you be eating to help avoid heartburn in your life.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables may not have been a problem for you before then keep eating them. Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential in a healthy diet as they provide your body with the vitamins and nutrients that it needs. They are also low in calories and high in fibre which is good for your system.
If you are worried that some vegetables are the cause of your heartburn then go easy on the cruciferous varieties – cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts and similar leafy green vegetables as they are known triggers for heartburn. You should also eat cooked vegetables as they are easier for your body to digest than raw veggies.
If citrus fruit are your concern start with small quantities and see how you react to them if you seem to be fine with them then try larger portions and to see how you react. If you don’t have any problems you fine to eat these, but if you do limit the amount you consume or eliminate them completely from your diet if they cause you heartburn.
Eat more whole grain products, it can take you a while to adjust to the change but it is better for your health and helping your heartburn. Products made from processed grains such as white bread, white pasta and starchy white rice (like jasmine) tend to provoke heartburn symptoms and give very little or no nutritional value at all.
Slowly make the switch to eating whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta and brown rice you will notice that you will eat smaller quantities and stay fuller longer as they are more filling and take longer to digest than their white counterparts.
Many people who suffer from heartburn find that the fat from the meats can cause heartburn to flare up. So get rid of the meats that contain large quantities of fat, also eliminate processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, spam and other similar processed meats.
Instead eat low fat ground beef, turkey, chicken, fish and trim of any excess fat from the meat you eat.
Many people don’t have a problem with dairy although it can be an issue for those who are lactose intolerant. Milk is often used to help neutralize the stomach acids and ease heartburn. If you want to make certain that dairy is not the cause, take them out of your diet for a while and then slow introduce each product back into your diet one by one.
Fizzy soft drinks, some juices and drinks containing caffeine can cause problems. Water is the best option, but if you like juice stay away from orange juice and red grape juice and replace these with clear juices like apple or white grape juice.
Have herbal or green teas instead of coffee and if you must drink alcohol try white wine or clear alcohol like vodka.
Where you can try lower fat versions of the fatty foods that you like or use a substitute in your cooking. Make low fat cookies or cakes made with apple sauce instead of oils or butter, eat “air popped” corn without butter instead of popcorn soaked heavily in butter.
Use healthier oils such as olive oil in your cooking, invest in a good non-stick pan that will allow you to reduce the amount of oil you use or eliminate it completely.
You are the only one who can determine what foods are best for you and which ones that cause you heartburn. You will discover that you will be just fine with some foods and others that you must reduce or exclude completely from you diet.
It will take time and effort on your part but do try different foods don’t just assume that they are going to be a problem. But do be aware that some foods may affect you one day and not the next.
Lifestyle Changes You Should Consider To Help You Get Rid Of Heartburn
We have discussed what causes heartburn and you now understand the common symptoms and the best types of food to eat the next step is to look at your lifestyle. When it comes to heartburn you will find that making some changes to your lifestyle and habits can make a huge difference to the way you can cope with it.
When you look at the list below you may find that not all of the solutions are relevant to you but do take note of the ones that are. The changes that you do now can make all the difference between you being in constant pain and suffering or living successfully with it.
Eat Smaller Meals
Rather than having your meals three times a day it can be quite helpful to eat five to six smaller meals more frequently during the day. The benefits of eating smaller meals is that you are allowing your body to work on smaller quantities of food which will reduce the risk of excess stomach acids building up which in turn reduces your chance of getting heartburn.
Avoid Laying Down Straight After Eating
As a general rule you should not lie down within two to three hours after eating. By remaining upright you will help digestion, and this in turn will help keep the stomach acids in your stomach. If you were to lay down after a meal you are risking an already weaken sphincter muscle to open up and this will allow the acids to flow back up into your oesophagus.
The only way to get rid of heartburn if you smoke is to stop. Nicotine from smoking tends to irritate the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is the valve that stops stomach acid from rising up and irritating the oesophagus. For this reason, smokers generally suffer from more chronic heartburn than non-smokers.
Reduce Your Alcohol
Alcohol can also irritate your stomach, as well as relaxing the sphincter muscle, and that can lead to heartburn. If you must have a drink then consume less to avoid heartburn from occurring.
Stress can be a source of heartburn and it can cause more problems than certain foods. Stress can also cause other health problems, and if it is the origin of your condition it can set off more frequent and intense flairs up the more stressed out you are. So it is important to learn how to cope with the stresses in your life in order to live successfully with heartburn.
Always Keep Your Head Up When Sleeping
Even though you had your smaller portion meal two to three hours before going to bed heartburn can still occur when you sleep. It could be the way that you sleep or by not being elevated enough. If you find that this is happening to you, try raising the head of the bed by placing bricks (or blocks of wood) under the feet of the bed. You will now be sleeping with your upper body slightly higher than your lower body. By doing this you are creating a condition where your sphincter muscle is higher than your stomach which will help the acids stay where they should be.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Obesity can make heartburn even worse by pushing your organs up on to your stomach which can create pressure and force the contents back up the oesophagus. So if you do suffer from heartburn take the steps to losing weight and getting back into a healthy weight range. You could find that you may even get rid of your heartburn altogether by doing this.
Watch Your Diet and Exercise
Always maintain a healthy diet, avoid over eating and avoid the trigger foods that give you heartburn. Make exercise part of your life it not only makes you feel better about yourself but when combined with healthy eating it can keep your weight in control.
Making some or all of the necessary lifestyle changes listed above is the best way to successfully live with heartburn. So it is up to you to make the changes in your life and find out which ones work best for you – no one else can do it for you.
You may find that you are overwhelmed with all the necessary changes but don’t be frighted off – make one change at a time and you will soon discover that you are well on the way to being heartburn free.
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