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Best practices to keep your stomach health in check


What is pyrosis?

Pyrosis is the medical term for heartburn. It is characterized by an excruciating burning feeling in the chest and abdomen. Stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus, irritating its lining and causing discomfort. This condition is often caused by a weakening or malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. Eating too much and eating spicy food are common triggers for heartburn.

Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion are sometimes used interchangeably, but indigestion includes a wider range of symptoms, such as nausea, bloating, and upper abdominal pain or burning. While occasional heartburn is common and easily treated, frequent episodes may be a sign of GERD, which needs to be treated medically to avoid complications.

Making lifestyle adjustments like cutting back on trigger foods, eating smaller meals, and keeping a healthy weight are all part of managing heartburn. While over-the-counter antacids can offer momentary relief, chronic cases may require prescription drugs that strengthen the LES or lessen acid production. Effective heartburn management requires being aware of the triggers and taking preventative action.

What is acid reflux?

In order to keep stomach contents, including acid, in the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) acts as a vital barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. When the LES is working properly, it opens to let food enter the stomach and then closes to stop backflow. However, stomach acid can leak into the esophagus in situations where the LES is weak or relaxes at the wrong times, resulting in an illness known as acid reflux.

Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest and abdomen, is a common symptom of acid reflux. It’s interesting to note that not everyone with acid reflux has this symptom, and occasionally, illnesses other than reflux, like heart problems, can be the cause of chest pain.

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

More severe acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and it is commonly accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, dry cough, hoarseness, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and a lumpy feeling in the throat. See your doctor if your symptoms are bothersome as soon as possible so they can properly diagnose and treat you.

The following are some of the possible causes of LES malfunction:

  1. Dietary Triggers: 

Eating certain foods, like chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and spicy or fatty foods, can relax the LES or increase the production of stomach acid, which can aggravate reflux symptoms.

  1. Lifestyle Choices: 

Consuming too much alcohol, smoking, and overeating can all weaken the LES and raise the risk of acid reflux.

  1. Obesity: 

Being overweight puts strain on the stomach, which relaxes the LES and lets acid reflux into the esophagus.

  1. Pregnancy: 

The LES can become weaker during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and increased pressure on the abdomen, which can result in acid reflux.

  1. Specific Medication: 

Certain medications can relax the LES and cause acid reflux, including nitrates, calcium channel blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Eating smaller, more frequent meals, staying away from trigger foods, and maintaining a healthy weight are all part of managing acid reflux and GERD. While over-the-counter antacids can offer momentary relief, more serious cases may require prescription medication. Surgery might be suggested in some cases to fortify the LES and stop acid reflux. For an accurate diagnosis and course of treatment, it’s critical that you consult a doctor if your symptoms are severe or persistent.

What are the signs and symptoms of GERD?

The hallmark of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus, which can cause several uncomfortable symptoms. Heartburn, also known as a burning sensation in the chest, is the main symptom of GERD. This burning feeling can last for several hours and usually happens after eating. When bending over or lying down, symptoms could get worse.  

Severe GERD cases can also cause difficulty swallowing, a sour taste in the back of the throat, and a sensation of something being stuck in the chest or throat, in addition to heartburn. In addition, respiratory symptoms like asthma attacks, chronic coughs, and shortness of breath can be brought on by reflux. When the cause of chest pain is unclear, it is crucial to seek medical attention because GERD-related chest pain can occasionally resemble heart attack pain.

Who experiences heartburn?

Any age can be affected by heartburn, but some factors make it more likely for someone to get the illness. Conditions or behaviors that weaken or damage the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that normally stops stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus, are risk factors for heartburn and GERD. Heartburn can also arise as a result of variables that may have an impact on the quantity of stomach acid produced.

Pregnant women are more likely to experience heartburn and GERD because pregnancy hormones can relax the LES; overweight or obese people may experience pressure on the stomach and LES; and smokers or those who are exposed to secondhand smoke may experience weakening of the LES. Heartburn risk can also be raised by some drugs, such as those that relax the LES or produce more stomach acid. Heartburn symptoms can result from wearing tight clothing, which puts more pressure on the stomach and LES.

What raises the risk of esophageal cancer?

Although heartburn on occasion is common and usually not serious, persistent, severe acid reflux can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a medical condition that needs to be treated. Inflammation, esophageal scarring, and stomach ulcers are among the complications associated with chronic GERD. In certain instances, it may also result in alterations to the esophageal lining cells, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus that raises the risk of esophageal cancer.

Do you experience symptoms at night?

Heartburn during the night can be especially problematic because lying down prolongs the time that stomach acid stays in the esophagus, increasing the risk of damage. Acid reflux during the night may be indicated by symptoms like coughing, sore throats, or waking up with a sour taste in your mouth. We naturally produce less saliva when we sleep, which aids in balancing stomach acid. This decrease in salivary flow can make symptoms of reflux during the night even worse.

What are some home remedies for heartburn?

Making wise food choices and lifestyle changes can help control heartburn at home. Smaller meals and refraining from eating three to four hours before bed can help reduce the risk of nighttime reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Additionally, you can take advantage of gravity and avoid acid reflux while you sleep by raising the head of your bed by about 6 to 8 inches. These easy at-home treatments can help lessen the symptoms of heartburn and enhance the general quality of life.

Modify Your Diet

The things you eat have a big impact on what causes acid reflux symptoms. Food high in acidity, spice, or other things that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) should be avoided to control reflux. Tomatoes, garlic, citrus fruits, onions, chocolate, peppermint, and fatty foods are examples of common trigger foods. Consider reducing the heat by choosing milder versions of your favorite spicy foods, which are less likely to cause symptoms, rather than giving up spicy foods.

Select Beverages Carefully

Additionally, some drinks may exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Juices from tomatoes and citrus fruits, for instance, have an acidic content that can make reflux symptoms worse. If you have reflux, you should stay away from tomato, orange, and grapefruit juice. Beverages such as tea, coffee, alcohol, and sodas can also cause reflux. Individual tolerance varies, though, so some people might be able to drink these drinks without any negative side effects. It’s critical to pay attention to your body and modify your intake as necessary. You can find the best beverage for you by trying out a variety of options and tracking how they affect your symptoms.

Exercise Wisely

Exercise regularly is beneficial for overall health, but some activities make acid reflux symptoms worse. Heartburn can result from exercises that push stomach contents back into the esophagus, such as crunches and inverted yoga poses like downward dogs and headstands. To prevent reflux symptoms, it’s critical to select exercises that keep stomach contents in their proper places.

It Matters What You Wear, Too

The symptoms of acid reflux can also be influenced by what you wear. Shapewear, belts, and tight pants are examples of clothing that can compress the abdomen and push food and acid from the stomach into the esophagus. Try to wear loose-fitting clothes to allow your abdomen to move freely and lessen the chance of reflux symptoms. By making these small wardrobe adjustments, reflux can be lessened and overall digestive comfort can be increased.

Handle symptoms when Pregnant

About 30% to 50% of pregnant women report having heartburn as a common complaint. As the abdomen gets bigger and changes hormone levels and intra-abdominal pressure, symptoms usually get worse in the second and third trimesters. Pregnant women can reduce symptoms by changing their diet to include multiple small meals instead of three large ones, stay away from fried and spicy foods, and avoid lying down right after eating. Pregnant women should see their doctors before taking any medication to ensure that it is safe for the fetus, even though there are some over-the-counter options available to relieve heartburn.

Antacids to Treat Heartburn

An over-the-counter remedy for heartburn that is frequently used is antacids, which neutralize stomach acid. Maalox, Mylanta, and Rolaids are a few OTC antacid brands. They are appropriate for people with mild symptoms and sporadic heartburn. However, in order to prevent adverse effects like diarrhea or constipation, it’s crucial to take antacids as prescribed and not more than the suggested dosage. Antacids might not be the best course of action for severe or chronic heartburn.

How do H2 blockers work?

Another over-the-counter and prescription treatment option for heartburn relief is H2 blockers. The way these drugs function is by lessening the production of gastric acid. For best results, H2 blockers should be taken half an hour before meals. To treat symptoms, some physicians might advise taking antacids and H2 blockers simultaneously. Furthermore, by repairing the harm that stomach acid has caused to the esophagus, H2 blockers can aid in its healing. Ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet), nizatidine (Axid), and famotidine (Pepcid) are a few examples of H2 blockers.

PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors, what are they?

Medication known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) lowers the amount of stomach acid produced. They also heal the esophagus more effectively than H2 blockers and are more effective at relieving heartburn. PPIs should be taken on an empty stomach and are available without a prescription and over-the-counter. PPIs include, among others, omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and rabeprazole (AcipHex). PPIs, however, should not be used excessively or over an extended period because they raise the risk of hip, spine, and wrist fractures.

Which treatment for heartburn is best for you?

The frequency and intensity of your heartburn symptoms are just two of the many variables that go into selecting the best heartburn treatment. While some drugs are intended to stop symptoms from happening, others offer instant symptom relief. It’s crucial to speak with your doctor if you’re not sure which course of action is right for you. To determine the best course of action for you, your doctor can evaluate your condition, consider any other medical issues you may have, and go over any medications you may be taking.