Heartburn and Indigestion
What are Heartburn and Indigestion?
Heartburn is experienced by over 50% of Americans as often as once a month while 7% have daily episodes. Over 25% of womenexperience Heartburn during pregnancy, many with daily occurrences during their pregnancy. Acid Indigestion, acid reflux and Heartburn are all common to both men and women.
Heartburn is defined as a strong burning pain in the chest caused by stomach acid seeping into the esophagus. Heartburn is often called Reflux Esophagitis or Acid Reflux. The esophagus prevents food, liquid and acid from coming back up through the stomach. Food goes from the esophagus to the stomach, and not the other way. However, when difficulties occur, stomach acid does seep into the esophagus which causes the pain know as Heartburn. The esophagus, unlike the stomach, does not have a strong protective lining so the acid can burn and cause pain and even scarring. Heartburn or acid reflux also shows itself in coughing and wheezing. It can keep you awake at night. Many times, it is difficult to swallow food.
Acid Indigestion, while similar to Heartburn, causes a burning pain in the stomach. It is the result of the stomach lining irritated by acid. Acid Indigestion, which differs from Acid reflux or Heartburn, occurs when stomach acid seeps through the mucus lining found in the stomach. It burns your stomach lining (duodenum). It will cause sores or craters causing peptic ulcer disease.
Treatment for Heartburn and Indigestion
There are Over the Counter medications that provide some relief from Heartburn and Indigestion: H2 blockers and antacids.
Tagamet HB, available OTC, reduces stomach acid for 8 to 12 hours. H2 blockers reduce the production of stomach acids. And the effect lasts longer than antacids so it should only be taken once or twice a day.
Tums EX is an antacid that many find helpful.
You can also find a large number of other products at your local drug store that have the same success. Many have been found to reduce stomach acids which irritate the lining of the stomach and esophagus.
Antacids act quickly and provide fast relief. They are inexpensive and easily found in many stores
Prevention of Heartburn and Indigestion
To stop digestive acid from seeping into the esophagus, you should avoid some foods and activities. Some people with hiatal hernias, some people who are overweight, and many pregnant women are unable to stop acid reflux from occurring. It may help to stay in a standing or upright sitting position for a while to let food digest in your stomach. This may help to prevent reflux.
To prevent Heartburn:
- Do not lay down after eating
- Do not go to bed immediately a meal
- Tilt the top of the bed, the keep your head higher than your legs. The stomach acid will have more difficulty fighting gravity.
Foods to avoid
- Alcohol · Caffeinated drinks like coffee, caffeinated tea, most soft drinks)
- High fat foods and fried foods
- Spicy foods
Activities to avoid:
- Do not smoke or eat before going to bed
- Do not lie down after you eat
- Do not wear clothes that synch the waist
Some prescription drugs may also affect Heartburn. You may want to ask your doctor if you use:
- Blood pressure medication
- Hormone replacements
To maintain the protective layer in your stomach:
- Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory drugs which may damage the protective lining of the stomach lining.
- Stop smoking or the use of smokeless tobacco products. Nicotine increases acid production and irritates the stomach’s protective lining
- To reduce the production of additional stomach acid, avoid:
- Carbonated beverages
- Oranges, grapefruit, lemon
- Dairy products
When to see a Doctor for Heartburn and Indigestion:
Acid reflux or acid Indigestion may be fairly mild pain. But if the pain is severe or regular, you should be looked after by a medical person. If you do not find relief from over the counter medications or other preventative measures, you should consult a physician.
Other warning signs of Heartburn and Indigestion:
Black stools can be a sign of blood from a stomach ulcer mixing with stomach acid. If you wake up from sleep with a sensation of choking or the taste of bile in your throat, this can be a sign of stomach acid seeping into your esophagus. You should see a doctor. You may need prescription medication, and tests to rule out other illnesses. Also, acid reflux can cause heavy scarring of the esophagus.