Hello, Health

Heartburn signals you're doing (eating) something wrong

It's actually your gut screaming out to you.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   08-08-2016
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Smokers, big eaters, non-exercisers, and those with a big waist get it more. So change your lifestyle.

Just finished lunch? Feel that burning sensation rising up your chest? No, it is not a normal step of digestion. It's called heartburn and it is a signal that you are doing (eating) something wrong.

Secondly, even though it occurs behind the upper ribcage, it has noth-ing to do with your heart (never mind the name). It is actually your gut screaming out to you - to sort it out.

And sort it you must, as heartburn is not like a hangover which will dissipate in time, it will keep coming back to annoy, and if left unat-tended and untreated, it might even lead to more serious health prob-lems, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophagitis, even cancer. So nip it in the bud.

heartburn-embed_080816113722.jpg Heartburn is not like a hangover which will dissipate in time.

If your next question is: why doesn't it hit that colleague who ate more than you? Well, unfortunately some people are naturally more prone to get it because the muscle that acts as a valve at the base of their esophagus is weaker than others.

It can't stop food from going back up the way it came (leading to heartburn).

Also some people have fewer digestive enzymes compared to others, making them more prone. That said, your lifestyle has a huge say too. So control that part diligently.

First the basics

Always sit up straight during meals, don't watch television or read while eating (let the brain and the gut both concentrate on the food), eat slowly, and chew well (give your gut as much help as you can), avoid eating less than three hours before bedtime and don't lie down straight after eating.

In fact a five-minute walk after every meal is a good idea; it prevents stomach secretions from rising into the esophagus.

Also drink enough fluids (about eight glasses of water) every day.

Eat right

Eat foods like papaya and pineapple as they promote the formation of digestive enzymes; these enzymes help break down protein for easier absorption.

Small portions are key. The bigger the meal, the more acid your sto-mach has to produce, and that may cause some of it to slip back up to the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), specially if it is weak or malfunctioning.

This acid travels upwards and causes irritation in the esophagus, re-sulting in that burning heartburn pain.

Actually, the size of meals doesn't just lead to larger amount of acid in the stomach, but also dictates how long the acid sticks around.

Also read: 12 simple ways to cut cholesterol

Lower your fat intake as it stimulates the production of stomach acid, leading to increased chances of an overflow of acid into your esopha-gus.

Besides, a low-fat diet might just help you combat another trigger of heartburn - obesity.

A large waist circumference builds up pressure inside the abdominal cavity, that over time weakens the LES.

Common culprits

The most common are caffeine, alcohol, fried and fatty foods, choco-late, and citrus juices.

These irritate the esophagus big time,so go easy on these. Some more are tomato products, chocolate, licorice, and peppermint.

And while we're at it, let's add nicotine to that list.

Aside from slowly killing yourself and even those close to you, it messes up your digestive system too.

Also read: A psychiatrist explains how to mend a broken heart

Nicotine actually lowers the pressure in the LES and irritates the eso-phagus, and smoking also decreases the production of saliva, which helps protect the esophagus from acid.

That's why smokers are more prone to heartburn.

There's more!

Exercise regularly - it strengthens digestion. Avoid wearing tight pants that bind at the waist as they too can contribute to heartburn.

Stress is a major factor in indigestion (and resultant heartburn). So try to eliminate stressors in your everyday life by practicing deep breath-ing techniques, listening to music and stretching.

Home remedies anyone?

No proven science behind it yet, but drinking apple cider vinegar mixed with water works for some.

And so does drinking aloe vera juice for fast-acting relief. Worth trying out I say!

But if you try all this and nothing seems to be working, it is highly possible that a bigger problem is present.

In that case consult a doctor immediately to figure out the cause.

Writer

Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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