• Posted by CERC India
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Handling heartburn

Overindulgence in rich foods and alcohol at parties can lead to an upset stomach and a bout of heartburn. For most the distress dies down within an hour or so – with or without the help of antacids.

Why heartburn happens

When you swallow food, it travels down your throat to your esophagus into your stomach, which produces acid to help break it down so that it can be digested. Your lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the entrance to your stomach, is supposed to close after the food passes through to keep stomach acid from going into the esophagus. But if it doesn’t, and acid reaches the esophagus (along with food), you’ll feel a burning sensation. It usually starts just below your breastbone and can radiate into your throat. You might also notice a sour or bitter taste in your mouth or throat.

Occasional heartburn is generally not worrisome or dangerous, and can be relieved with diet and lifestyle changes and, if necessary, over-the-counter antacids or other medications. However, if you have heartburn twice a week or more, and it recurs for weeks or months, or if you frequently regurgitate food (with or without heartburn), consider seeing your doctor to be checked for gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Left untreated it can damage the esophagus and even lead to cancer.

How to prevent it

Certain food and beverages can trigger heartburn in some people, such as citrus fruit, chocolate, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, fried food, garlic, onions, spicy or fatty food, and tomato-rich food, such as marinara sauce, salsa, and pizza.

Fortunately, changes in your diet and lifestyle might be all you need to alleviate the problem of heartburn. Instead of relying on medication to put out the flames, first try these simple steps:

  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Eat fewer fatty foods
  • Go easy on spicy foods
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Don’t lie down at least three hours after eating
  • Lose weight if needed
  • If your heartburn is still bothering you, try raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches. This may help reduce heartburn flare-ups while you’re asleep.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing or belts that push on your abdomen, since compressing that area can contribute to reflux.

Choosing the right remedy

Antacids (calcium carbonate): For occasional heartburn (less than twice a week). You should also avoid food that triggers heartburn.

H2 blockers (famotidine, nizatidine and ranitidine): For occasional heartburn not relieved by antacids and lifestyle changes, or before eating a known heartburn trigger.

Proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, esomeprazole and lansoprazole): For frequent heartburn not relieved by lifestyle changes, antacids, or H2 blockers. After two weeks of use, check with your doctor to determine if you have GERD. PPIs can have uncommon but serious side effects.

Source: Consumer Reports
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