Heartburn is very uncomfortable yet extremely common. Research shows heartburn strikes an estimated 20% of world population at least once a week.
Heartburn or acidity is when you experience a sour and sometimes bitter taste in your mouth or a burning sensation in the throat, chest or stomach. Ignoring constant heartburn or heartburn for days, can actually lead to more serious and complicated problems like peptic ulcers.
What causes Heartburn
Heartburn or acid reflux is quite a simple problem when it begins, but it can get out of hand easily if not taken seriously. Heartburn is due to the excess secretion of acid by the gastric glands of the stomach. The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid that is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system. This acid further secretes various digestive enzymes like pepsin that break the food particles down for easy digestion. A normal level of acid is required in the stomach for proper digestion of the complex foods. When there is excess secretion of this gastric acid, it gives rise to acidity and heartburn. It seems to be very simple but the damage it can cause in the body is hard to imagine.
Like its name, there are many causes of this acidity or heartburn :
- Stress is one of the main causes.
- Smoking and excess of alcohol tends to weaken the nervous system, as a result the mucus membrane and the stomach lining stops functioning properly.
- High intakes of fatty and spicy foods, refined and fiber-less foods, overeating and eating hurriedly are few causes that aggravate acidity.
- Heartburn is also caused by high fat cuts of meat like beef, pork, lamb which stay longer in the stomach and increase the chance of acid reflux
- Excessive intake of caffeine and nicotine.
- Skipping meals/fasting. Other causes of acidity or heartburn are pregnancy, aging, anxiety and insomnia, obesity, posture, erratic meal timings and bad eating habits.
Instant Heartburn Relief
- Have plenty of milk and milk products – having yogurts and buttermilk at regular intervals will help to subside acidity. Have a glass of cold milk or a cup of vanilla ice cream for instant relief from heartburn.
- Mustard is full of minerals and because of its alkaline properties,it will instantly neutralize the pain of acid reflux. Just get a saltine cracker or slice of bread, put some mustard sauce on it, eat and you’ll begin feeling relief almost instantly.
- Mix 2 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar with 1/4 – 1/2 cup water and drink at the first sign of heartburn. Add 1 tsp honey if mixture tastes too sour for you. You can continue to take this every 5-10 minutes until you have relief, but one serving usually takes action within just three minutes.
- Baking soda helps neutralize stomach acid. Mix between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water for instant relief. You can repeat this as needed but should not exceed 3 teaspoon doses in a 24 hour period. Baking soda is extremely high in salt and may result in water retention and increased blood pressure so don’t apply this remedy regularly.
- Bananas contain natural antacids that can act as a neutralize acid reflux and heartburn. Similarly, eating an apple couple of hours before bedtime relieves or prevent discomfort due to acid reflux.
Heartburn relief : Home remedies for Heartburn
Some very simple, natural home remedies can be used to treat and prevent acidity & Heartburn
- Drinking water in the early morning controls acidity, as water is a good neutralizer for acid. One can have a glass of lukewarm water with one tsp of honey early in the morning and start day.
- Herbal tea containing liquorice (mulethi), Ginger or Chamomile is also beneficial and lot better than normal tea, coffee and aerated drinks.
- Chew a few basil leaves to get relief from heartburning , nausea and gas. It is an effective home-remedy for acidity. You can also have one tsp of basil juice every morning and before going to sleep at night.
- Drink coconut water 3-4 times a day. It is a common natural remedy for acidity.
- Daily intake of fresh mint juice slowly after meals will help you prevent acid reflux.
- Boil cumin seeds in a glass of water and drink it with meals.
- Fruits like watermelon, banana and other eatables like almonds, cucumber also reduce acidity.
Lifestyle changes to prevent Heartburn
It’s important to live a balanced and stress free life. Following simple and easy lifestyle changes can keep you healthy and happy :-
- Stop smoking and binging on hard drinks. Smoking after meals increases the chance of heartburn.
- Do not lie down immediately after your meals. Before going to bed, make sure you give your body enough time to digest the food you eat. Your stomach digests the food with the help of acid. Avoid lying down after meals to keep the acid where it should be. Eat your meal at least three hours before going to bed.
- Proper posture is another factor which should be taken care of. While eating, avoid slouching on the table. After the meal, keep your back straight and upright. At night sleep in the right posture and at the right elevation as it will help in acidity control, like keeping your head on a high pillow of up to six inches. Avoid sleeping on/over your stomach.
- Wear comfortable underclothes. Tight belts should also be avoided.
- Pregnant women should have small mid-meals at regular intervals. To minimize heartburn, women should have solid carbohydrate foods like biscuits, rusks, bread or a fruit. At the same time avoid rich, fried, highly spiced foods and high fat cuts of meat.
- Eat liquid and solid foods half an hour apart. Having water or aerated drinks with food dilutes the digestive juices that are secreted in the intestines. This results in indigestion, acidity and heartburn.
- Eat small meals at regular intervals, at least five – six meals per day. Avoid keeping long gaps. Make sure to eat little after every three –four hours.
- Be fit. Try and maintain your ideal body weight. Overweight people are more prone to heartburn attacks. Eat more of leafy vegetables and fruits which are are rich in fiber.
Exercise helps in controlling acidity. A morning and evening walk of at least 30 minutes is good for your health and keeps the acidity and heart burn under control. Yoga exercises and meditation keep your overall internal system (like digestive systems, nervous system) and external system in good condition. Try to avoid chemically-prepared medicines. Although they suppress the acid formation in the stomach, they badly affect the digestive system and have many side effects.
If you don’t feel better even after various precautions, then go for the right diagnosis at the right time. Consult your doctor for proper medication and treatment.