Health Program

 Heartburn

Definition


A pain behind the breast bone, often described as ‘burning’ in quality. Pain can also be felt at the same level in the mid-line of the back. Most people suffer from heartburn at one time or another. In fact heartburn has nothing to do with the heart - it is a digestive problem. Heartburn is generally related to meals and posture and can often be relieved by remedies for indigestion.


Cause


Acid is present in the stomach to digest food. Heartburn occurs when small amounts of this acid rise up into the gullet (esophagus) - the tube which carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This is called reflux. The gullet, unlike the stomach, does not have a protective lining. So when it is exposed to the acid, it can become inflamed and painful.


Prevention


The most important and helpful aspects of treatment are those which you can do for yourself.


  • Stop Smoking-After a meal, when the stomach is full, smoking increases the chances that you will suffer from heartburn.

  • Avoid becoming overweight-For many patients weight reduction is the most important remedy. It is worth trying to improve your eating habits. Include more fruit, vegetables and high-fiber foods in your diet. Regular exercise can also help you to lose weight. Posture-Avoid bending from the waist or stooping just after meals. Instead, try and bend from the knees, keeping the back straight. Meals are better taken while sitting on an upright chair rather than slumped in front of the television.

  • Diet-You may find particular foods can make your symptoms worse. These might include: acidic fruit drinks, drinks which are too hot, spirits (such as whiskey and brandy), or fatty and spicy meals. It is better to eat ‘little and often’, fill but do not over-fill the stomach. Food should be eaten slowly and chewed well.

  • Sleeping-Let your evening meal digest well before you go to bed. Night-time symptoms can also be reduced by raising the head of the bed on blocks by 6 inches. Gravity helps to keep the acid in the stomach where it should be. Some people are helped by sleeping on their left side.

  • Posture-Avoid bending from the waist or stooping just after meals. Instead, try and bend from the knees, keeping the back straight. Meals are better taken while sitting on an upright chair rather than slumped in front of the television.

  • Clothing-Avoid tight belts and underclothes as they increase pressure on the stomach.

  • Pregnancy-It is common for pregnant women to suffer from heartburn. By eating sensibly and keeping your weight increase within the recommended limits, you can lessen the severity of heartburn.