HOW COMMON IS HEARTBURN
“Occasional heartburn is fairly common,” Cleveland Clinic advised. However as regular and severe heartburn can be indicators of a GERD it’s important you advise patients reporting this of the possible concerns and to seek further medical attention from their general practitioner if lifestyle changes don’t alleviate the problem.
Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus caused by stomach acid. This can be triggered by several things, most commonly food that’s acidic or high in fat, according to Cedars-Sinai. “Spicy foods or large meals can also be the root of distress. Other sources of heartburn include aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as some sedatives and blood pressure medications. Tobacco in cigarettes is known to affect LES function too; cigarette smoking relaxes the muscle, which can result in heartburn. Being overweight or pregnant can also trigger heartburn due to added pressure on the abdomen and stomach.”2
In addition to the common burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may also occur at night, according to Mayo Clinic patients suffering from heartburn may also experience pain that worsens when they lie down or bend over, and they may have a bitter or acidic taste in their mouth.3
Some patients may struggle to swallow and suffer from coughing or hoarseness.2
The first step in treatment is simple lifestyle changes explained Dr Nipaporn Pichetshote, gastroenterologist and assistant medical director of the Cedars-Sinai GI Motility programme. “Avoid foods that trigger the problem; eat smaller, more frequent meals; and wait 2-3 hours after you eat before lying down.”2 Other lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, lowering stress levels, avoiding tight clothes and belts.1
OTC medications that can help relieve heartburn:3
- Antacids help neutralise stomach acid.
- H2 blockers can reduce stomach acid. H2 blockers don't act as quickly as antacids, but they may provide longer relief.
- Proton pump inhibitors can reduce stomach acid.