The burning feeling in the chest, unpleasant pain, acid-sour taste in the mouth, belching, trouble swallowing. These are the most frequent symptoms of heartburn or pyrosis. It can be a temporary condition after ingesting unsuitable foods, but heartburn may also have some hidden causes that we should not underestimate.
Heartburn occurs approximately in 10% of population and almost every other adult has encountered it in their lifetime. It usually plagues pregnant women, people with bad diet habits and alcoholics. In pregnant women, the problem usually abates after giving birth, in the other cases the unpleasant problems can be solved by changing one's lifestyle.
What Exactly Is Heartburn
Pyrosis is, in layman's terms, "digestive fluids returning to the throat". Part of the stomach's contents travels back to oesophagus and then returns back to the stomach. It is a process very similar to vomiting, but without the retching and spasms. This mechanism is triggered in case of badly functioning constrictor muscle of pharynx between the stomach and the throat. Heartburn therefore occurs as a consequence of this malfunction or gastroesophageal reflux which is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease. Heartburn is frequently accompanied by stomach ache and bad breath.
The complicated term is a combination of the words "gaster" (=stomach), "oesophagus" (=throat) and "reflux" (= return).
- The burning feeling in the chest usually arrives usually several minutes after taking a meal but it may also appear after a longer time after ingesting unsuitable food.
- Excessive belching accompanied by sour-acid taste in the mouth.
- Pain in the upper central abdomen which may also rise to the chest.
- Trouble swallowing and excessive salivation.
- Bad breath.
Some Foods and Unsuitable Combinations May Cause Heartburn
If the pyrosis is caused by bad food ingestion, heartburn occurs several minutes after eating. People keen on fat foods surely know this feeling well because these are the foods that mainly cause heartburn. Other dangerous foods are very hot meals, carbonated beverages, chocolate, coffee, garlic, onions, citrus fruits and fresh yeast bread. Fried foods cause heartburn in most cases. That also goes for baking with fat which is why we should prefer stewing, boiling or baking with steam.
Other factors causing heartburn to a significant extent are obesity, smoking and regular alcohol consumption. Establishing a healthy lifestyle is therefore the first step towards getting rid of these troubles that may complicate your life.
In order to avoid heartburn, it is recommended to enrich our diet with more root and leafy vegetables, foods high in dietary fibre, rice, yoghurt with living cultures and kefir. It is important that the foods are easily digestible and that they don't linger in your stomach for too long; that is why your meals should be simple in terms of ingredients.
Avoid Heartburn by Sticking to Suitable Diet Principles:
- avoid fat and fried foods
- divide your meals into smaller portions and eat several times a day; chew your food properly, do not swallow huge chunks of it unprocessed
- add fruits, vegetables and fibre into your diet; in vegetables, avoid garlic and onion. In fruits, avoid citrus fruits and beverages made of them.
- observe your drinking regime
- reduce alcohol consumption, carbonated beverages and coffee
- use fresh herbs instead of hot spices
How to Fight Heartburn
First and foremost, we should make sure gravity does its job and keeps the food where it belongs - in the stomach. Lying down, sitting forward or moving fast may even make things worse for us, so we do not recommend taking a nap after a meal. If you get heartburn at night, you should find relief lying on your left side. In this position, the stomach is lower than the throat and so digestive fluids return more easily to where they belong.
In many cases, all it takes to get rid of heartburn is drinking a glass of water. If that doesn't help, we can try foods that reduce acidity of digestive fluids. Baking soda solved in a small glass of water is very efficient, but in long-term use, it may also cause the trouble to return. Before you try chemical medical substances, try also other "helpers" against heartburn:
- milk - 1 glass of milk for short-term relief from heartburn
- almonds (not roasted and not salted) - couple of almonds a day may help keep the stomach balanced
- sugar-free chewing gum - chewing increases salivation and that helps wash the digestive fluids down.
- Cabbage juice - mitigates the burning
- herb tea - fennel, balm, yarrow or sweet flag help find relief
A Useful Helper Not Only with Heartburn
It is a known fact that aloe vera is a miraculous plant helping with many health troubles. Aloe vera gel contains alkalizing and tissue-regenerating substances by which it contributes to good functioning of the entire digestive system, and it is therefore also efficient against heartburn. Drinking this "home remedy" on regular basis may help to remove pyrosis completely.
Apart from heartburn, aloe vera may help you with other troubles as well, for example with:
- metabolic problems
- lack of energy
- inflammatory diseases
- Read more on aloe vera effects in the article: Blahodárné účinky aloe vera pomohou zbavit tělo škodlivin
|In case of long-term heartburn, consult your physician because the cause may be more serious than ingesting unsuitable foods.|
Pyrosis Can Also Indicate a Problem More Serious Than Digesting Unsuitable Foods
If you experience heartburn fairly often, there is a risk of irritation of the oesophagus mucous membrane; this may result in an inflammation or ulcers in the throat or even a tumor in acute cases. So you shouldn't postpone seeing your physician for too long; just go and make sure no further treatment is necessary. In order to eliminate changes in the throat, endoscopic examination is necessary where a tube with optics at its end is inserted into the patient's throat which helps the doctor to examine the oesophagus walls but also the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. Another option is an x-ray examination of the throat.
In most severe cases, it is necessary to undergo a surgical procedure during which the surgeon forms a "collar" from the upper part of the stomach to surround the lower part of the oesophagus. This procedure is not very frequent and it is only performed in cases of severe danger to the patient's health
Heartburn During Pregnancy - Have No Fear
- As a result of hormonal changes, the tension of digestive system walls loosens and therefore the function of the constrictor muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach dwindles.
- The growing uterus pushes the stomach upwards.
So if you get heartburn during pregnancy you need not worry for it is a common phenomenon; if you have any doubts, you should consult your physician. Pyrosis related to these changes usually abates immediately after giving birth.
Healthy Life Style Will Change Your Life
Whether it is heartburn, problems digesting or evacuating, obesity or other unpleasant health problems, changing the lifestyle is the first step which will not only help prevent further complications but also improve the mood, physical condition and resistance. If you wish to feel better, start changing your lifestyle as soon as possible. The change doesn't always have to be radical and drastic; all you have to do is change your bad habits by replacing them with a less damaging variation:
- Instead of classic cigarettes, get an electronic one - stopping smoking is much easier with it.
- Limit alcohol consumption only to "necessary" social events.
- Instead of eating in restaurants, eat home-made meals made with fresh ingredients and enjoy your food multiple times a day in smaller portions. You will make things easier on your digestive system which will process the food more easily.
- Replace baking on fat and frying with baking with steam, boiling, stewing; eat raw vegetables since processing them thermally removes important vitamins.
- Drink green tea instead of coffee; green tea energizes the body for a longer time and it also supports healthy losing weight.
- Buy only quality chocolate with high-contents of cocoa; it is healthier and fills you more, so you eat less of it.
- Every day, make time for taking a little walk, to or from work, with your dog... and add other activities gradually, too. Apart from losing weight and stress and saving money for transport, you will have tons of new energy.
- Do not beat yourself up about failing to stick to the new regime here and there; nobody's perfect. You cannot turn back time, but you can go on and strive to fail as little as possible in the future.