You feel a burning pain when stomach acid rises up in your oesophagus. The lower oesophageal sphincter generally keeps the acid in the stomach, but when you are suffering from a heartburn, it allows the acid to rise upwards, a condition known as acid reflux. Big meals and some acidic foods can cause heartburn. Pregnant women, overweight people and smokers are more prone to heartburn. It is a condition that makes you feel extremely uneasy, but the cause is not always clear. There are people who blame it on spicy foods, eating too fast or too slow, but there are others who blame it on certain acidic foods like grapefruit or oranges. For immediate relief you can use an antacid, but for a long-term remedy, you need to identify what triggers your heartburn.
Dousing the fire
- As soon as you feel the acid rising, drink a lot of water, it will push the acid back down into the stomach.
- Add a spoonful of fresh grated ginger to a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes, and then drink it, as it will relieve the heartburn.
- Instead of ginger, you can also use anise, caraway, peppermint or fennel seeds to ease the burning sensation.
- Crushed cinnamon tea can also be used to cool the heat of heartburn.
Neutralising the acid
- Chew some sugar-free gum to get your salivary glands flowing, as saliva helps in neutralising stomach acid.
- The juices of carrots, cucumbers, radishes, or beetroot also help in neutralising the acid because of their alkaline nature. You can also eat these vegetables raw.
- Bicarbonate of soda, being alkaline in nature, also helps. Mix half a spoon of bicarb and a few drops of lemon juice in half a cup of warm water and drink, it will give you relief.
- Try staying upright as much as possible, as gravity will make the acid stay in the stomach. Do not bend or lie down after a meal.
- Eat at least 2-3 hours before going to bed to let the acid level decrease before you sleep.
- Put some thick book under your pillow, or use two pillows to keep your head raised while sleeping, and allow gravity to prevent reflux.
- Sleep on your left side as much as you can, as the stomach hangs down and keeps the fluids in it away from the oesophagus.
- Avoid eating too much in one go, instead eat small and more frequent meals to minimise the production of acid.
What foods to avoid
If you are susceptible to heartburn, try to minimise the intake of the following foods and beverages:
- Alcoholic drinks have a relaxing effect on the lower oesophageal sphincter, the valve between the stomach and the lower oesophagus, and they thus make you more susceptible to heartburn.
- Milk gives a soothing effect as you drink it, but the fats, proteins and calcium it contains can actually cause heartburn.
- Drinks like tea, coffee and cola contain caffeine, which relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter and can worsen an already inflamed oesophagus.
- Chocolate is laden with two substances, fat and caffeine, and both can cause a heartburn.
- Fizzy drinks, because of the carbonation in them, can make your stomach bulge and have a similar effect on the lower oesophageal sphincter as overeating.
- Fatty and fried foodstuffs tend to stay in the stomach for a longer duration, and can trigger excess acid production.
- Citrus fruits and their juices are acidic, but they are mild compared to stomach acid, and should not be too much of a problem.