Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest or throat after eating? This is what’s known as heartburn - although it has nothing to do with your heart!
Heartburn is caused by stomach acids leaking into your oesophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. This happens when the lower oesophagal sphincter, a ring of muscle that acts as a valve to prevent stomach contents from flowing back up, doesn’t contract properly after eating.
Common triggers for heartburn include:
Eating spicy, fatty or acidic foods
Stress and anxiety
Lying down after eating
Overeating or eating too quickly
Heartburn can last for a few minutes or as long as several hours and can be highly uncomfortable. Here are our top tips on how to overcome heartburn.
Milk thistle is a herbal extract containing a compound called silymarin which possesses antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It is most commonly used to treat liver problems, improve heart health and help manage blood sugar levels, but research has also found milk thistle can help ease heartburn and reduce gastrointestinal problems.
It might sound strange, but baking soda can help soothe heartburn by neutralizing your stomach acid. To use it correctly, dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it. The water can also relieve symptoms as it helps flush stomach acid from the oesophagus.
Eat alkaline foods
Foods that are alkaline can help counteract the acidity of your stomach acid. Ripe bananas are high in potassium which makes them very alkaline. However, unripe bananas are much less alkaline and may actually cause heartburn in the first place - so be sure it is ripe. Other highly alkaline foods include cauliflower, nuts, fennel and melons.
Ginger has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to help treat stomach problems like nausea. Some people find it can also help ease heartburn by reducing stomach acid. Try drinking a cup of ginger tea or add plenty of chopped ginger to your meals.
Chew sugar-free gum
According to one study, chewing gum can help alleviate heartburn as it stimulates the production of excess saliva and increases swallowing, helping dilute stomach acid and clear it from your oesophagus. However, chewing gum can also worsen other digestive problems, so use it with caution or consult with your doctor first.
Change your position
Reclining right after eating makes it much easier for your stomach contents to flow back up into your oesophagus. Try sitting up after eating and avoid slouching to ensure gravity is working in your favour. Remaining upright also relieves pressure on the abdomen and reduces the chances of heartburn.
Wear loose clothing
If you’ve just eaten a big meal and are wearing tight clothing that compresses your stomach, the chances are heartburn will strike. Try loosening your waistband or change completely.
There are plenty of heartburn medications available in pharmacies. Antacids are common one of the most common treatments and many people find them very effective, as they can help immediately neutralize stomach acid.