How do you get rid of heartburn?

We all may have seen or heard advertisements of medicine used to treat heartburn. These medicines are often easily found in pharmacies and even convenience stores. You may be familiar with heartburn after eating spicy food or eating too much at a time. Gastrointestinal diseases are ailments that affect the organs where food and liquid travels through when it is eaten or ingested and leave the body in forms of stool. In short, the gastrointestinal system involves mouth, throat, oesophagus (food tube), stomach, intestine both small and large, rectum and anus. It is estimated that at least 50% of the adult population suffer at least one of the many diseases involving the gastrointestinal system. 1 in 5 Malaysians suffer heartburn. There are many medicines available in the market, either on the counter or prescribed by doctors to help treat this condition such as Nexium 40 mg.

Heartburn is defined as the burning feeling in the chest which is especially caused by the stomach acid. It is often triggered by certain foods and drinks such as spicy, fatty and acidic which often taste sour or bitter. Occasionally, heartburn is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). No matter what is the exact cause of the heartburn or diseases linked to heartburn as the symptom, one thing for certain, it does cause great inconvenience or discomfort to those experiencing it.

Main symptom of heartburn, as the name itself implies, is the burning sensation that can be felt in the middle of the chest where the heartbeat can be felt. Other symptoms include bloating and feeling sick. Heartburn symptom is often confused with GERD but it has two different meanings but often mistakenly similar when they occur. GERD is known as a disease whereas heartburn is a symptom. In short, people with GERD definitely have heartburn but people with heartburn may not have GERD. People with GERD often complain of an unpleasant sour or bitter taste in their mouth depicting the stomach acid that climbs up the oesophagus. In severe cases, it could cause cough or hiccups that do not cease, hoarse voice caused by the irritating stomach acid corroding the throat and bad breath. Symptoms usually get worse after eating and when lying down or bending over.

Getting rid of heartburn is as simple as knowing why heartburn occurs. Since the nature of the condition is the excessive production of stomach acid, tackling this issue will reduce the symptom itself. This means to do things or take medicine that aim to reduce the excessive stomach acid or neutralise it. There are steps that can be taken for those with heartburn to feel better such as:

  • Use over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medications such as antacids.
  • Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water and drink it slowly. This remedy should only be used on occasion.
  • Add grated raw ginger into boiling water or get yourself ginger tea bags. Only use it in small amounts and avoid using ginger ale because common ginger ale offers ginger flavouring plus carbonate that could worsen the heartburn and does not contain real ginger.
  • Wear loose clothing since tight clothing might be the reason the stomach is compressed and lead to acid build-up.
  • Chew sugar-free gums. Study shows that by doing this 30 minutes after meals can help reduce heartburn.
  • Fix your posture by avoiding slouching in the long term.
  • Raise your head by 10 to 20 cm by placing a pillow or be at the end of the bed and making sure your head and chest are above the level of the waist. This can prevent stomach acid from travelling up towards the throat.
  • Take liquorice supplements. Liquorice in forms of Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can help build the mucous coating of the esophageal lining that can help reduce heartburn symptoms by protecting the oesophagus from damage by stomach acid.

Although heartburn may seem like a no big deal apart from discomfort or pain, it is important for patients to know when they should definitely seek medical advice and not continue to rely on self-medication or remedy as mentioned above. While mild and occasional heartburn is typically not a concern, it can be a totally different situation when it is serious.  Signs that heartburn may be a serious one includes heartburn symptoms that become severe, frequent heartburn (twice or more in a week), heartburn symptoms that do not go away even after taking medication, difficulty or pain when swallowing, diarrhoea, black or bloody stool and signs of potential heart attack such as chest pain that often spread to the neck, jaw, arms or legs, limb weakness, irregular heartbeat and excessive sweating. These are among the signs that heartburn could be more than just the excessive stomach. Thus, patients need to get immediate medical advice if any of the serious symptoms occur as this could be a life-threatening condition if it is not addressed promptly.

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