Are you or someone you know suffering from indigestion, acidity or heartburn. You are not alone, a great percentage of healthy individuals have indigestion at least once a month.
Why does it happen? Acidity often results when your stomach produces too much acid. This can lead to some acid from your stomach to flow backward into your food pipe (esophagus) and cause a burning sensation in your chest, which is commonly called heartburn. Occasional heartburn is common, but if it occurs more than two times a week it can be a symptom of acid reflux disease (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD). Persistent and untreated heartburn could sometimes result in ulcers.
Symptoms General symptoms include a burning feeling in the chest. Other more severe symptoms (especially of GERD) could include – difficulty or pain when swallowing, feeling that food is stuck in your throat, excessive clearing of the throat, minor chest pain or burning sensation in the mouth.
Usually symptoms occur after meals, or when there is pressured applied to the stomach or abdominal area, or when you lay down. Many other lifestyle and dietary factors can trigger it but it is different for everybody.
Common factors are:
- Being overweight
- Some medications (NSAID’s)
- Foods, such as:
- Raw onions or garlic
- Spicy foods or peppers
- Mint: Peppermint or spearmint
- Citrus fruits: orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit
- Caffeinated beverages: tea, coffee, cola
- Carbonated beverages: pepsi, coke etc
- Fatty or greasy foods: oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, deep-fried foods
- Tomato-based foods: tomato sauce, chili sauce, pizza
Ways to relieve and prevent the symptoms
Eat small, frequent meals
- Eat four to six small meals a day
- Eat at regular times everyday
- Chew well and eat slowly
Include a balanced diet
- Include foods from all the food groups
- Eat high-fibre foods, this helps to move food easily through your digestive tract. Increase it slowly, eating too much too quickly can cause bloating, gas and cramping. Examples of high fibre foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grain products (rolled oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread)
- Drink plenty of water, fibre absorbs water to help it move through your digestive tract. If you don’t drink enough water with your fibres, you can get constipated.
During and after eating
- Sit upright while eating and up to an hour after eating
- Wait at least 3 hours after eating, before going to bed or laying down
- Avoid wearing clothes that are tight around your waist and stomach
- Don’t drink liquids with your meals, drink 20 minutes or an hour after or before
- Stretch or walk around often after meals
Try avoiding things that trigger your symptoms, for example:
- Stop smoking
- Limit high fat and high sweet foods
- Reduce your caffeine (tea, coffee), alcohol and sodas intakes
- Avoid artificial sweeteners in your foods and drinks (such as sorbitol, mannitol, zylitol)
- Or avoid the common trigger foods listed above
Other things that could work:
- Try reducing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
- Improving your posture or raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches may also help
- Chewing gum also help to relieve symptoms
- If other things don’t help, you can take over-the-counter antacid medication
Taking control Try identifying what foods trigger your flare-ups by noting it down or keeping a record of foods you ate before your symptoms. If you notice symptoms recurring after eating a particular food, try avoiding those foods and see if your symptoms start to disappear.
Time to see a doctor When your heartburn occurs more than 3 times in a week or if avoiding trigger foods and taking antacid medications are not helping. You should consult a doctor immediately if you also have vomiting, low iron, weight loss or chest pains with your heartburn.