Ever felt that burning feeling in your chest area? This phenomenon is called heartburn. It is a common health condition experienced by many men and women. It feels like there is a nagging pain in the chest behind the breastbone. It gets worse during the evening, after eating, or when bending or lying down. Apart from that, it is also denoted by a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth. Now, before you panic, you should know that heartburn is, most often than not, common and not a cause for alarm. In fact, most people alleviate the symptoms and risks of heartburn by simply changing their lifestyle or taking nonprescription medications.
As mentioned above, heartburn is a common medical condition. In fact, this health condition affects 60 million Americans per month and 20 to 30 percent worldwide. Occasional heartburn, that is, is normal. Still, even though heartburn generally does not entail serious health complications, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. So, when should you see a doctor? You should be wary of your symptoms and monitor them from time to time. For one, if you are feeling severe chest pain or pressure, experiencing pain the in the arm or jaw, or having difficulty breathing —then it is in your best interest to consult a doctor immediately. Apart from those, you should also take note of the following: its frequency, difficulty swallowing, persistent nausea or vomiting, or weight loss either due to poor appetite or difficulty eating.
In this article, we will discuss deeply what heartburn is. Then, we will talk about its various causes, signs and symptoms, natural treatments and remedies, as well as several lifestyle changes you can make to lessen or alleviate the symptoms of heartburn. Moreover, we will also talk about GERD, acid reflux, and other related health conditions. And then finally, we will tackle if drinking water does help ease the pain of heartburn.
Causes of Heartburn
To expound further, heartburn occurs when the stomach acid gets transported back into the tube called the esophagus. Normally, when you swallow food, a stack of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus, otherwise called the lower esophageal sphincter, relaxes wherein food passes through, along with the liquid, and reaches the stomach. Right shortly, the muscle tightens again until another food is transported.
However, in some instances, the lower esophageal sphincter does not execute this mechanism of "tightening" and "relaxing." As such, when the lower muscles of the esophagus weaken or relaxes abnormally, the acid in the stomach acid flow back up into the esophagus, also called acid reflux, and causes heartburn. Basically, it happens whenever the acid backs up in the esophagus. This is the tube that carries the food that we eat up to the stomach.
Some foods and drinks can trigger heartburn. It includes spicy foods, citrus, onions, and tomato products. For some, eating fatty foods, chocolate, and peppermint prompts heartburn. Finally, coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcohol can hinder for some to enjoy holidays.
Meanwhile, being pregnant or overweight increases one's risk of experiencing heartburn.
Signs and Symptoms of Heartburn
There are various signs and symptoms of heartburn. For one, you can feel a nagging and discomforting pain in your chest. This usually happens right after eating. Some can experience this at night time. Moreover, there is an acidic or bitter taste in your mouth. Finally, the pain worsens when you bend or lay down in your bed.
If you are experiencing severe pain in the chest, then it is best to see a doctor immediately. Some people may also feel pain in their jaw and arm. Others can have difficulty breathing. If the issue is neglected, these symptoms can lead to a heart attack.
As previously stated above, take note of the following symptoms so you'll know when exactly to see your doctor:
More than twice a week of heartburn
Burning pain in the chest despite taking over-the-counter drugs
Painful experience when swallowing
Vomiting or nausea
Poor appetite or extreme weight loss
If heartburn often occurs and disrupts your daily routine, you might develop Gastroesophageal Reflux Diseases (GERD). GERD may require treatment and sometimes operation. It can damage the esophagus, and recovery can be challenging. Furthermore, it may become a cause for concern for digestive and kidney diseases.
What is gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)?
Repeated backflow or reflux of acid from the stomach into the food pipe or mouth is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In essence, this is a digestive disorder since it messes up primarily with your digestive tract. Many people experience acid reflux more frequently than what is deemed normal. It happens over and over again that it develops chronic acid reflux condition —which, in return, causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Just like normal heartburn, most people try to alleviate the symptoms by changing their lifestyle or daily routine and taking certain medications. Occasionally, some people experience severe symptoms that they need to undergo surgery, like gastrointestinal endoscopy, to lessen the pain.
Three conditions can cause Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):
Poor color of the lower part of the esophagus (food pipe)
Too much acid in the stomach
Delayed stomach emptying
The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle that controls the passage of food between the esophagus (food pipe) and stomach. Sometimes, this muscle doesn't close totally, driving the acid production from the stomach to flow again into the esophagus or throat. This abnormal condition is called gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn.
The symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux consist of a sour taste in the mouth, a dry cough, and a burning sensation in the throat. It might sometimes cause acid reflux (pain in the upper abdomen and chest that occasionally feels like an individual has a heart attack). Ultimately, if these symptoms become repetitive and severe, or simply, frequent acid reflux happens, it becomes what is called the gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Treatment for Heartburn
Heartburn can be treated easily by changing your lifestyle. Eat certain foods to prevent acid reflux. To make it more heartburn-friendly, pair your food with certain beverages and drinks that help enhance your digestive process. Perform simple steps to avoid it like the tips included below:
When the symptoms of heartburn strike, you can find immediate relief with the food and drinks at your home. You don't need to get prescription medications right away or other types of medicine to relieve heartburn. Check out these easy and natural remedies below:
The use of Aloe Vera is common in treating sunburns. But amazingly, this is also an effective remedy to treat heartburn. Just drink a glass of Aloe Vera juice to calm your esophagus. This can limit inflammation and avoid irritation in the long run. Since this is a natural remedy, it does not aggravate acid reflux.
Apple or Banana
Eating a banana or an apple a day will keep the heartburn away. These fruits contain natural antacids that can relieve and prevent the onset of acid reflux. It can also prevent other symptoms of heartburn too.
Apple Cider Vinegar
People may be hesitant to take apple cider vinegar at first. But acid reflux is due to a condition wherein there is not enough acid in your stomach. The best method to introduce acid into your belly once again is by taking apple cider vinegar. You can put it as dressing in the salad, which tastes good. Plus, apple cider is also conducive to losing weight and prevent stomach bulges. All in all, this is a good component to add in your diet.
Baking soda has a high pH level on it. As such, it helps in neutralizing the acid in the stomach. Whenever the acid rises from the stomach and esophagus, the baking soda does its magic by stopping the acid. You can swallow a teaspoon of baking soda. Or you can dilute it in water whenever you are in pain.
Drinking unsweetened coconut water can help people who experience acid reflux. It contains helpful electrolytes like potassium. This can promote the balance of the pH level in the body. It aids in controlling the symptoms of acid reflux.
Amazingly, chewing gum can help one with their heartburn. As you chew the gum, it aids in the production of saliva. The excess saliva that you swallow can aid in diluting and clearing the acid from your stomach. This can relieve your pain and reduce the symptoms in the long run.
As mentioned, chewing gum is known to accelerate saliva production in our mouth. In line with that, there is a study that states chewing gum helps lessen the risk of heartburn since an "increased" saliva production helps promote swallowing in general. As a result, you are able to keep acid down and neutralize the acid that your stomach makes, preventing it from getting sent back into your esophagus in its most "acidic" form. But of course, eating any other gum won't also do your health good, so make sure it's sugar-free!
The Truth about Drinking Water during an Acid Reflux
Heartburn is due to the flow of the acid in the stomach back into the esophagus. Drinking water can provide relief. It can raise the pH level of the stomach. It can dilute the acid. Also, it can clear out the esophagus.
The pH level of water is neutral, which can raise the pH level of acidic food.
Recently, there is a buzz about drinking alkaline water and its promise to help ease heartburn. Alkaline has a higher pH level and lower acidity. According to some people, it can neutralize the acid and relieve the symptoms.
Drinking alkaline water will indeed neutralize the liquid for a few minutes only. However, it will not solve the main reason why there is acid in the stomach. Furthermore, drinking too much water can mess with the balance of the minerals in the body. As such, it can most likely increase the chances of experiencing acid reflux.
If you wish to consider alkaline water to treat heartburn, talk to your doctor first. Make sure to partner it with other remedies to solve the signs and symptoms right away.
Water likewise blends well with fiber in your stomach. This not just aids control of your craving, so you don't consume a lot of food, but on the other hand, it's a decent way of absorbing excess stomach acid. That way, the acid will not spill up to your esophagus, creating that terrible burning sensation and numerous different symptoms.
Subsequently, consuming food sources rich in fiber in blend with some water is an incredible way to fight heartburn symptoms.
Does drinking hot water help heartburn?
How does hot water help with heartburn?
Restarts metabolism and speeds up digestion
Can lemon water help with heartburn?
Lemon is an acidic substance. However, many individuals trust it can help with diminishing acid reflux or heartburn. Does it work, and is it safe?
As per a 2012 survey, lemon juice has a report used in Eastern and Western practices to help digestion and gastrointestinal issues, including acid reflux.
Nonetheless, there is no research to propose that it works. Indeed, due to its acidity, lemon juice could worsen acid reflux.
A few sources say that lemon water has an alkalizing impact, implying that it can neutralize stomach acid, diminishing indigestion. In any case, this isn't backed by research.
Lemon juice is acidic, with a pH of 3, while water has a pH of around 7, neutral. This implies it is neither acidic nor alkaline.
Specific individuals might find that drinking a glass of lemon water can work on their reflux. An acidic fluid, such as lemon water, could even worsen their symptoms for other people.
How do you use lemon water for acid reflux?
Again, there is no research to back up that lemon water will diminish the side effects of acid reflux. If an individual still prefers to try this home remedy, they can think about the option below:
Mix 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of fresh lemon juice with 8 ounces (oz) of water. If it tastes too strong, add less lemon juice at first. Always dilute lemon juice with water to lessen its acidity.
Some people drink lemon water 20–30 minutes before each meal to prevent acid reflux from happening.
Drink a small amount at first and observe how the body reacts. Slowly graduate up to a full glass if fitting.
Drink lemon water with a straw since the acid in the juice can damage teeth and enamel.
Apart from eating the recommended food and drinks above-mentioned, there are also a few lifestyle changes that you should try. It includes avoiding a few treats, wearing the right clothes, and listening to your body. Check out the tips below:
Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine
One step to start your journey toward lifestyle changes is by limiting, or if possible, stopping your vices.When one smokes or drinks alcoholic beverages, the body relaxes. With this, it makes the valve that separates the esophagus and the stomach relax. Now, the acid can escape the stomach and trigger reflux. You can experience vomiting and stomach pain as you smoke and binge drink.
Avoid Eating Spicy Foods
Change your Eating Habits
Do Not Eat Chocolate or Drink Citrus Juices
Pay Attention to Your Body
Sleep with your Body Elevated or an Incline
Take Licorice Supplements
Take Over-the-Counter Medications
Wear Loose Clothes
In sum, when heartburn hits, there are many natural and over-the-counter remedies that you can try to ease the pain. Drinking water can help with the immediate relief of the symptoms. However, this might not be an effective remedy to solve the issue in the long run.
Adjust your lifestyle to feel long-term relief from your health condition. Watch your diet, change your lifestyle, and talk to your doctor.
If you are experiencing heartburn more than two times a week, it is best to seek professional help immediately. It might be a symptom of a bigger health problem. Go to a doctor so the issue can be solved right away.