Image gotten from http://shavana.com.au/2015/02/festive-heartburn/

Heartburn is something that affects almost everyone and might not cause any serious concern. Credible sources have highlighted that almost everyone will experience heartburn with many linking their heartburn to food. The feeling that comes with it is very uncomfortable and annoying. You could give anything in the world for this burning sensation to go away and never return. This is where I come in as someone who spent over 24 hours researching this topic and gathered much information from the scientific and non-scientific communities. Heartburn is normally felt below the breast-plate. If you are reading this, chances are that you have experienced heartburn especially if you have tried beans (many people identified with this).

Some statistics:

  • Everyone apart from a select few will experience heartburn one point in life or the other
  • More than half the number of pregnant women will experience heartburn with most of those affected experiencing this in their third trimester
  • Close to 95% of people link heartburn to a certain food

Cited from FloridaHospital and HealthLine

What really causes heartburn?

Heartburn is

simply the re-emergence of acid or to be more specific, gastric acid

in the oesophagus which can mean the presence of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) but this is not the case for everyone because it can be due to eating certain foods that stimulate the production of acids. GERD can lead to inflammation of the oesophagus or food pipe

Other names for heart burn

  • GERD
  • Acid indigestion
  • Acid reflux
  • Chest burn

Anatomy of the digestive system:

The beginning of the digestive system is the mouth where food mixes with the saliva. This travels down the oesophagus as bolus in a characteristic nature known as peristalsis. Bolus moves to the stomach where enzymes act on it and processes it to chime. Acids are then added to it kill bacteria and help with the digestion of some compounds. Next, food moves to the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed and sent to the needed cells. The remaining moves to the large intestine where it is processed and excreted from the body. Digestion of food is an involuntary process and one that is not under conscious control.

Symptoms experienced during heartburn:

The production and presence of acids causes the burning sensation many people experience. This is the major symptom associated with heartburn and is located centrally in the chest. From this article, it said that the oesophagus just like the stomach has protective cells that line it and prevent refluxed acid from causing inflammation and damage to the oesophagus. Just before the entrance of the stomach, muscles are modified to form sphincters that close and prevent passage of food back into the oesophagus. This is called the Lower esophageal sphincter. If this does not close quickly once food passes, then stomach contents or acids can flow backwards.

This burning sensation is made worse when the person bends, stoops or lies down.

Causes of heartburn:

  1. Common foods that cause increased production of acid from the stomach such as beans
  2. Alcohol
  3. Some drugs such as aspirin, buprofen,
  4. Acidic fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges
  5. Smoking which cause changes in the esophageal lining from squamous cells to metastatic columnar cells that characterise Barrett’s oesophagus and this is diagnosed by endoscopy.

Visit here for more information.

How you can avoid it naturally:

  • Some people say you should avoid eating foods that cause heartburn especially before bedtime as lying down worsens it. This should be your first line of defence. But I recognise that many people like me will have a favourite food that causes heartburn and mine is beans. I can’t do without eating beans and this keeps me frustrated knowing I have to avoid beans. Subsequent ways of dealing with heartburn shown below can be adopted if you are like me.
  • Eating smaller foods often. This is great when you identify foods that cause heartburn and trying to balance this with another food that does not cause heartburn for you.
  • Stop things like smoking although this is easier said than done.
  • Alcohol and carbonated drinks that affect you can be reduced or stopped.
  • A reputable source also highlighted not eating too fast and reducing fatty foods.
  • So many other sources also highlighted eating gum as this stimulates the production of saliva.
  • Baking soda mixed with water can also be used but you should be careful about this  as it could cause nausea or retention of water which could increase your blood pressure.
  • I also recommend drinking lots of water during and after eating. I always try this and it takes a while for it to go completely. I recommend having water by your side as it always resurfaces. Also get ready to urinate more often. Other times, not eating hot food can also help you with heartburn. This paragraph is my own suggestion and someone also told me drinking loads to milk can also help as it is basic in nature. I tried it but didn’t notice much difference. These guys talk about using water but warn about using milk to relieve heartburn.
  • Another home remedy I saw was eating banana as described by Freedrinkingwater. This quickly sent me to research mode. I had already talked about banana in a previous post but missed out on its alkaline properties. From what I know about banana, it is high in fibre and great as a form of antioxidant. Further research revealed that it was alkaline and gets rid of heartburn quickly. I know it is rich in potassium which can also help neutralise acidity (pH of potassium is 14 and 5.6 for banana). I feel it might subside the heartburn and I spoke to someone who told me banana worked to  an extent for her. Read 1, 2, 3 for more info with naturallifeenergy discussing about alkaline and acidic foods. P.S. I have not yet tried this one out but the data out there shows it is effective and will try it out very soon. Then and only then will I update this article and tell you about the experiment that I will have conducted by then and how long it took me to get rid of heartburn.
  • The final remedy I have tried is eating another food which does not cause your heartburn. It works for me and keeps the effect of my heartburn to a bare minimum. Seek your dietician to know what you can have for snacks or if you are the healthy type, look for healthy fruits or food you can eat.

What the scientific community had to say about this:

Drugs for heart burn
Drugs for heartburn. Image shown above was gotten from Kumar and Clarks Clinical Textbook page 240
  1. Take antacids after meals or when needed. Antacids work through a process of binding to the excess acids and lining the gut wall. Antacids have different mode of actions (some containing calcium carbonate or preventing production of acids) but they all serve the same purpose of reducing heartburn by neutralising acidic nature.
  2. Antagonists of histamine (H2) stop the action of histamine that encourages the stomach cells to produce acids. Examples of these class of drugs are Cimetidine or Ranitidine
  3. Another family of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) block the production of acids and these include drugs like Omeprazole or pantoprazole as described here.

This site lists other medications that might help and IQWiG gives a general overview which can be found in PubMed Health.

Surgery was also recommended but depends on the extent of the symptoms.

Summarising this section, I will say that you should consult with your doctor or GP to get more advice because some drugs react with some other ones and have side effects.

Having gotten to the end of this article, I want to comment that a change in lifestyle is necessary to combat heartburn. Everyone is different and if you identify what causes heartburn for you, then you can effectively tackle it and reduce it occurrence. It takes trial and error for you to properly know how to treat your heartburn and the services of a doctor should be consulted.

We will love to hear your comments about how you solved your heartburn issues in the comments section below.

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Inspired by a life goal to influence the next generation of thought leaders, Nyemahame started this website. He wants to see people achieve their highest potential through his posts. Success starts one day at a time and by taking action. You can connect with his via his social media account and he will love to hear from those who got inspired. He is open to opportunities and seeks to grow his networks.