What Causes Heartburn?

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heartburnHeartburn is a painful condition that affects millions of people of all ages and from all walks of life. While it is more common in adults, it is possible for children to suffer from heartburn.

Most people will experience heartburn symptoms at least once in their life, but for most people it is just an occasional occurrence triggered by eating a very large meal or some food that is unusual and exotic to them.

For some people, however, heartburn is a regular and very painful occurrence. Reocurring heartburn is a serious problem because it can mean that the sufferer is at risk of developing esophageal cancer later in life. There are medications that can treat the symptoms of heartburn but it is always better to figure out the cause and then manage your diet and lifestyle carefully to prevent future attacks.

Common Triggers of Heartburn

Heartburn can be triggered by spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, and smoking. Some people find that exercising immediately after eating, or just eating a large meal, can cause attacks. Pregnant women are more likely to suffer heartburn, and people who are obese are also more susceptible to it. The good news is that it is possible to manage the condition in most of these cases, and gestational heartburn is usually stopped after the mother gives birth.

Foods to Avoid

spicy foodThere are a lot of foods that are thought to cause heartburn, but unfortunately it is not as simple as working through a list and saying “can rice cause heartburn?”.

Then ticking that off and moving on to the next food. Some foods, such as spices and citrus fruits, are more likely to trigger heartburn than others but there are many heartburn sufferers that tolerate those foods just fine.

Rice is one food that confuses a lot of people. Many people find that when they eat meals that contain rice they suffer from heartburn but it is not typically the rice that causes the attack. Usually, it is something else in the meal (red meat, or spices) that triggers the heartburn.

Alternatively, it could be the size of the meal that is the problem. Takeaway Indian meals, for example, usually feature huge portions and are an occasional treat. Someone may erroneously make the assumption that it is the rice that is the problem when in reality it is size of the meal.

Figuring Out Your Triggers

If you want to figure out what is causing heartburn in your case, then you will need to pay close attention to your diet and your day to day habits. Don’t just look at what you are eating, but pay attention to when you eat it, how much you eat, and what you did before or after the meal.

Think about how much water you are drinking, and what else you drink too. Do you drink a lot of tea or coffee? What about alcohol? Are you a smoker? How soon after eating do you exercise? All of these things matter.

Stopping Heartburn

trigger foodOnce you have identified your worst triggers you can start to look at ways to prevent heartburn.

For many people, simply eating more vegetables and lean meats is a good way to stop heartburn.

For others, it takes more specific remedies such as apple sauce or apple cider vinegar taken when the pre-warning signs of an attack occur.

Another good and effective option is to change your eating habits. You may find that while you are unable to eat your usual foods in full meals, your body can tolerate them better if you eat smaller meals throughout the day. This can be a good way of allowing yourself your favourite indulgences without having to worry about “paying for it” later with a serious case of indigestion.

Last Ditch Remedies

If you find that you are unable to  control your symptoms using dietary changes, then you may need to take medication to stop your heartburn. You have a lot of options here. People who suffer from occasional attacks of heartburn may respond well to taking antacids, but these should not be taken on a regular basis. If you have heartburn more than once every couple of weeks, you should look at alternative medications.

heartburn medicineThere is a relatively new form of medication for heartburn that works by forming a foamy layer over the top of the acid in your stomach. This can help you to stop the acid escaping your stomach

. A third form of medication, which is available on prescription, is the proton pump inhibitor. This works by preventing the stomach from producing as much acid as it normally would, thereby meaning that there is less acid to escape through the LES at any given moment in time.

If you have persistent, frequent bouts of heartburn it is important that you talk to your doctor to find a way to control it as soon as possible. Uncontrolled heartburn increases your chances of developing esophageal cancer, and since it is so easy to stop the attacks, it makes sense to do so.

Naturally, eating a healthier diet and stopping smoking  as well as moderating your alcohol consumption, will be much more beneficial to your overall health in the long run than trying to manage the condition with medications, but if some combination of the two is necessary then it is still worthwhile for the long term health benefits.

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