Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced under your breastbone after you’ve eaten something that may not have agreed with you.

What to look for

  • a burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone (the sternum) that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours.

  • chest pain, especially after bending over or lying down.

  • burning in the throat—or hot, sour, or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat.

  • belching.

Often the symptoms may be mistaken for a heart attack but usually this condition is not nearly as dangerous. It is an irritation of the oesophagus that is caused by stomach acid. Usually sphincter at the end of the oesophagus relaxes to let food into the stomach, then contracts to close off the oesophagus from the stomach contents. If the muscle becomes weak, acid and bile from the stomach can go back into the oesophagus causing this condition.

Occasional heartburn isn't dangerous, but chronic heartburn can indicate serious problems.

Causes

A sphincter that doesn't tighten as it should is the basic cause of heartburn. The causes can be: too much food in the stomach (overeating) or too much pressure on the stomach (frequently from obesity or pregnancy).

The sphincter relaxes with tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and peppermint, dishes high in fats and oils, medications, especially some antibiotics.  Stress, which strains the nerves controlling the sphincter, can cause heartburn as can smoking.

 

Traditional Treatment

Most physicians advocate antacids for occasional heartburn. Alternative practitioners rely on herbal remedies to reduce acid and relaxation therapies to lessen stress.

The primary objective is to identify the cause of the heartburn, so it can be avoided in the future. Surgery may be required to repair the sphincter if nothing else works, but this is relatively rare.

 

Alternative/Natural Treatments

 

Herbal Therapies  - Ginger (Zingiber officinale) tea can diminish heartburn quickly, and chamomile (Matricaria recutita) tea's calming effects is especially helpful. If your digestion system is not functioning as it should, try herbs such as agrimony and dandelion. If you have heartburn because of nervousness or anxiety, try hops, lemon balm and vervain. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) tea can diminish heartburn quickly, and chamomile (Matricaria recutita) tea's calming effects is especially helpful. If your digestion system is not functioning as it should, try herbs such as agrimony and dandelion. If you have heartburn because of nervousness or anxiety, try hops, lemon balm and vervain.

 

Homeopathy - Specific heartburn symptoms often respond well to homeopathic remedies. After eating spicy foods, take Nux vomica; after rich foods take Carbo vegetabilis; and for burning pain, take Arsenicum album. Specific heartburn symptoms often respond well to homeopathic remedies. After eating spicy foods, take Nux vomica; after rich foods take Carbo vegetabilis; and for burning pain, take Arsenicum album.

 

Dietary Considerations

Take acidophilus Bifidus to help maintain optimum levels of the friendly intestinal flora. This will help your indigestion. Also it helps to eat smaller more regular meals including vegetables and fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals. And always chew your food properly.

 

Prevention

Heartburn is often preventable. Try to avoid foods which you know will cause this problem. Lying down is often not the best remedy, you should sit upright while the discomfort is evident.

When to seek further professional advice

  • you experience heartburn along with any other symptom

  • you take an antacid to relieve heartburn and do not feel relief within 15 minutes.

  • your heartburn gets worse with exercise and relieved by rest.