If you’ve already suffered from heartburn, think about what you can do to avoid it. We explain everything about this recurrent and uncomfortable symptom.
A survey revealed that, in Portugal alone, around 20% of users treated for four weeks in health centers reported health problems to their family doctors. heartburn.
Also 7.4% of the interviewees revealed to have suffered from this discomfort two or more times a week. In this way, the gastroesophageal reflux it has been asserting itself as a true Public Health issue, which concerns patients as well as clinicians.
What habits can we change to prevent this malaise? That’s what you’ll learn right away.
Heartburn: what is it all about
What is it?
Heartburn is not a disease, but rather a symptom that indicates a digestive disorder. It may occur as a result of gastroesophageal reflux, a circumstance in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, damaging its walls.
Did you know that one of the most common causes of heartburn is poor diet or overeating? But, it’s not just.
In a normal situation, during a meal or food intake, the ingredients go from the mouth to the stomach through a tube, called the esophagus. In normal operation, the connection between the esophagus and the stomach should not allow food or stomach secretions to return backwards, that is, there is a place for reflux. However, if this mechanism is not verified, the stomach acid will reach the walls of the esophagus, irritating them and causing heartburn. Some of the causes of this malfunction could be:
- hiatus hernia, in which part of the stomach passes over the diaphragm and enters the chest cavity;
- very abundant meal, followed by which we place ourselves in a position leaning forward or horizontally;
- carbonated drinks.;
- foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, mint, onions and other very fatty or spicy ingredients;
- medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, some sedatives and antihypertensives.
Generally, the feeling of heartburn starts in the sternum and can go up to the throat. It occurs most often after meals or when lying down and can last for minutes or even hours.
Usually, heartburn manifests itself in the form of a burning or burning that intensifies when swallowing. This discomfort can also appear in the form of a bitter taste in the mouth.
When faced with a patient with symptoms of heartburn, the clinician must make the most accurate diagnosis possible, based on the patient’s clinical history and an objective examination.
In a scenario of common heartburn, it is possible to start a treatment right away which should be reassessed weeks later and, in case of improvement, you can dispense with carrying out any tests.
If the scenario is more complex, tests such as upper digestive endoscopy and breath test may be relevant.
Treatments and preventive measures
There are attitudes and behaviors that can help prevent these situations. Eating at least 2 to 3 hours before going to sleep, sleeping with the headboard elevated, quitting smoking, losing weight, not overeating, avoiding very tight clothes and foods that tend to cause heartburn are some of them, as they reduce reflux and the formation of acid in the stomach.
There are several recommended medications for treating heartburn. The most commonly used classes are antacids, H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
These drugs reduce or even neutralize the secretion of stomach acid, so that damage to the esophagus is less significant when reflux is present. All these solutions must be prescribed by a doctor.
In more severe and extreme cases, resorting to surgery may even be the only really effective method to correct the cause of the reflux. This should only be done after the previous methods have been tested without success and on medical advice, the operation is the most indicated solution.
If heartburn symptoms appear associated with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), pain when swallowing (odynophagia), digestive bleeding, signs of weight loss and/or anemia, you should immediately consult a specialist, in order to rule out other diseases or complications.