The last time you had heartburn was probably yesterday. This problem is so prevalent in every country that almost all of us have experienced it. Most people ignore the feeling and wait for it to go away on its own. However, there’s a better solution.
You can significantly reduce the symptoms of heartburn and improve the quality of your life by knowing what triggers heartburn, which things help, and how you can prevent it.
Heartburn is basically the resultant symptom of acid reflux. Your stomach contains enzymes, acid, and other liquids that are not suitable to come in contact with the lining of other organs. When this acid gets pushed up in the food pipe (esophagus), the result is heartburn.
Although the name might imply something else, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It is all related to your stomach and esophagus.
13 Triggers of Heartburn & Effective Home Remedies
Heartburn affects almost 20 out of every 100 individuals from the western world. Although it doesn’t cause serious health problems, the underlying reasons for heartburn can lead to potential complications. It is, therefore, important to watch out for the symptoms, identify the triggers, and avoid food that is causing excessive acid production in the stomach.
Symptoms of heartburn: Heartburn is fairly obvious to most individuals. It’s that burning feeling in the middle of the chest or back of the throat. Some people also complain of discomfort behind the backbone. Moreover, indigestion-like pain, burping, bloating, bad breath, tooth erosion, stomach noises and acidic taste in the mouth are often present.
Triggers of heartburn
Although individuals can have different factors triggering their heartburn, some factors are more common than others. Identifying your triggers is important in the prevention of heartburn. Here’s a list of foods that are more likely to cause heartburn in the prone individuals.
1. Fatty food
5. Citrus fruits
9. Spicy food
Some other causes include:
11. Certain medicines, such as ibuprofen and aspirin
We are already inundated with the information on the adverse effects of smoking. It is a risk factor for the majority of diseases. Heartburn is no exception.
Although people who smoke are more likely to light up a cigarette whenever they are tensed or feel discomfort, the truth is that burning some tobacco will not help relieve the heartburn. In fact, it can aggravate the problem.
We know that obesity is a risk factor to many diseases, but the world continues to be burdened by the problem. More than 340 million people in the age group 5-19 are obese, and nearly one-third of the human population is overweight.
Excessive fat causes pressure on the stomach pushing the gastric content towards esophagus. Adding some sort of physical activity (walk, jogging, exercise, yoga, dancing) to your routine and some dietary modifications can produce excellent results.
Finding solutions to your problem right in the pantry is the best things to happen. If you frequently experience heartburn, you are likely to be searching for some home remedies. Take a look at these foolproof list of helpful strategies that’ll help improve your symptoms.
1. Wear loose clothes.
If you happen to be wearing tight clothes, loosen them. Heartburn occurs when the content in your stomach pushes back into the esophagus and causes burning. When we wear tight clothes, they put pressure on the stomach.
2. Lying down? Stand up.
If you lie down immediately after having a meal, heartburn is more likely to happen. You might be sitting or lying down, stand up from your position for some time. If you are already standing, stand straight.
3. Try mixing some baking soda in H2O.
Baking soda is a favorite item in the circle of home remedies. Just mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water, and drink it. This might not be the most delicious drinks in the world, but slowly drinking this mixture will help relieve heartburn. Baking soda neutralizes the acid in your stomach.
4. Chew gum.
Have you ever noticed that the flow of saliva increases when you are chewing gum? This increased salivary flow can help wash off the effects of acid in the esophagus. Chewing gum also helps in neutralizing the acid in your stomach.
Remember, mint flavored gums are not a good choice as they have shown to contribute to the heartburn. Go for other flavors.
5. Try these potential herbs.
Licorice and chamomile, marshmallow, and slippery elm are the herbs that have some good reviews on treating heartburn. It is best to take these herbs with a doctor’s consultation as they might interfere with other medications that you take.
6. Elevate the head of your bed.
Some people experience heartburn while lying down on their beds. For them, it’s not that fact that they slept immediately after eating and so they suffer heartburn. It is there no matter how much they delay lying down after eating a meal.
The best way to prevent this is through elevating your bed. Don’t worry; you don’t have to buy a new bed. Just place some wooden or cement blocks under the feet of your bed such that the head end is now elevated 6-9 inches.
Raising your head with pillows will NOT help.
Foods that are helpful
There is no magic cure for heartburn, but some dietary modifications can help. Aim for low-fat, high-protein diet. Add these foods to your diet to manage symptoms of heartburn:
- Green beans
- Leafy greens
Citrus fruits are likely to cause heartburn. If you frequently encounter the problem, try non-citrus fruits such as
The following lean meats are low in fat:
Make sure you are not frying these items. Try them in boiled, baked, or grilled forms.
The white of an egg is high in protein, whereas egg yolks have high-fat content. So, egg whites are a good choice to help prevent heartburn symptoms.
Not only is it a favorite breakfast food, but it is also an excellent source of fiber. Oatmeal helps in the absorption of stomach acid, and it reduces the reflux symptoms. You can also try other fiber-rich food such as whole-grain bread.
Grated ginger and ginger tea can help ease the symptoms.
Taking foods that contain probiotics may also help. These foods include yogurt, kefir, raw kimchi, kombucha, and raw sauerkraut.
Make lifestyle changes.
- Adopt physically active lifestyle.
- If you are overweight, try to lose some weight.
- Avoid lying down immediately after having meals. Wait for at least 3 hours.
- Quit smoking
- Do not overeat. Eat small meals throughout the day.
- Avoid alcohol
- Do not consume too much caffeine.
- Limit carbonated beverage intake.
Take OTC medicines.
There are many over-the-counter medicines for the treatment of heartburn. Generally, they are classified into three groups.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- H2 blockers
Antacids are taken before meals to prevent the symptoms. You can have chewable antacid tablets or liquid suspensions of antacids.
Related article: 11 Natural Remedies for Heartburn
When to consult a doctor?
Occasional heartburn can easily be ignored. However, if acid reflux occurs more than two times per week and results in the inflammation of the esophagus, it is an indication of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Usually people present with the following symptoms of GERD:
- A feeling of fullness
- Difficulty in swallowing
Depending on the severity of the issue, affected individuals can also experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, tarry stools, and pain in the chest.
Heartburn can also be a symptom of medical conditions other than GERD. These conditions require early diagnosis and prompt treatment to avoid possible complications.
Other medical conditions associated with heartburn
All organs in your body have a protecting lining on the inside. When this protective lining of the stomach gets inflamed, we call it gastritis. It could be acute gastritis that is sudden and severe in nature or chronic form that is less severe and can last for a long time if left untreated.
Common causes of gastritis are the H.pylori infection, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, old age, stress and frequent use of medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Usually, the infected individuals have nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and fullness after having a meal.
Gastritis can lead to ulcers and even stomach cancer. Because of these potential complications, you should take the problem seriously. Consult your doctor if you happen to have the symptoms as mentioned earlier.
2. H.Pylori infection
Helicobacter pylori is a common bacteria that causes infection in the stomach. Roughly 60 percent of the world’s population have their stomachs infected by H.Pylori. Surprisingly, not all individuals show symptoms; it is probably because some people are resistant to the harmful effects of this bacteria.
Those who show symptoms are likely to have
- abdominal pain
- unexpected weight loss
- loss of appetite
- difficulty in swallowing
If you happen to have these symptoms, consult your doctor. Prolonged infection can lead to stomach ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).
3. Barrett’s esophagus
This condition develops due to long-term acid exposure to the esophageal lining (the inside of your food pipe) resulting in abnormal cells. These cells are likely to develop into precancerous and cancerous cells.
Related: 13 Foods to Help You Ward off Cancer
Barrett’s esophagus increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Although there is increased risk, many individuals do not develop cancer.
The best strategy is to consult your physician as soon as you start getting frequent heartburn. Early treatment of GERD can help prevent Barrett’s esophagus.
4. Peptic Ulcer
These are the sores that develop on the inner lining of the gastrointestinal system. Peptic ulcers are a common problem, and they present in three different forms.
Gastric ulcers that develop on the inner lining of the stomach, esophageal ulcers, and duodenal ulcers that are present in the upper section of small intestine.
Causes: Different factors can cause the break down of the inner lining. Some causes are H.pylori infection, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, frequent intake of anti-inflammatory drugs, radiation therapy, and stomach cancer.
Symptoms: The most common sign of a peptic ulcer is abdomen pain extending from navel to the chest. It could be mild to severe pain.
Change in appetite, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, indigestion, and dark stools are other common signs. However, there may be no signs and symptoms in the early phases.
Usually, an endoscopy confirms the diagnosis.
Treatment and lifestyle modifications are required to prevent the complications of peptic ulcer that include perforation and internal bleeding.
Towards the end of your esophagus, there is a muscular ring that prevents the content of stomach from going back into the esophagus. As the food approaches near the stomach, this ring (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food into the stomach and then it constricts to prevent the reflux.
In the case of achalasia, lower esophageal sphincter fails to relax, and the food keeps on accumulating in the esophagus.
Although food eventually reaches the stomach, the condition can result in heartburn, weight loss, choking, increased risk of inhaling the food particles, and discomfort in the chest.
Chagas’ disease and esophageal cancer can lead to similar symptoms. If you have trouble swallowing food (liquid or solid), a doctor is these best person to advise you.
Other than these medical conditions, esophagitis, panic disorders, gallstones, angina, cancers of stomach and esophagus, hernia, Beri Beri, and systemic sclerosis can also cause heartburn.
You can treat occasional heartburn with dietary and lifestyle modification. However, if these modifications fail to improve the condition, or you suffer from frequent heartburns, difficultly in swallowing, or unexplained weight loss, it can be an indication of some serious medical condition. the best is to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.