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How To Relieve Chronic Heartburn

Southern Cross Medical Library

How To Relieve Heartburn

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

How Is Heartburn Diagnosed

Often all that a health-care professional requires is a thorough history and physical to make the preliminary diagnosis of heartburn. To evaluate if there is any damage and how severe your heartburn is, the doctor my suggest some of the following tests:

  • Endoscopy: A flexible scope is passed down the esophagus to examine the esophagus as well as the stomach. Biopsies can be taken if indicated. This lets the doctor see if there is any obvious damage, and also eliminate other reasons for the patient’s symptoms .
  • Upper GI series : After drinking a liquid that coats the inside of the digestive tract, X-rays are taken. These X-rays will show the outline of the digestive system.
  • Ambulatory pH testing: This test measures the acidity in the esophagus via a small tube that goes through the nose into the stomach.

How Do Acid Blockers Work To Treat Heartburn

Products like Pepcid AC® are called histamine H2 blockers, or acid blockers. Acid blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. They relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach. Always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to your healthcare provider about how to take this medication. Acid blockers you can buy without a prescription include:

  • Pepcid AC®.
  • Tagamet HB®.

Take your acid blocker medicine regularly for as long as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you do not have any pain or if your symptoms get better.

Stronger acid blockers are prescription medications. These can be used to block stomach acid, treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider will give you a specific prescription for this type of acid blocker.

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently reported elevated levels of a possible carcinogen, NDMA, in the drugs ranitidine and nizatidine . You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are taking one these medications.

Also Check: What Foods Are Good To Eat If You Have Heartburn

How To Figure Out If You Have Low Stomach Acid

This isnt a replacement for a real diagnosis, but the burp test can give you an idea of what youre working with. Do this first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything.

  • Mix ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in 4 oz of water. Get your timer ready.
  • Drink it all and immediately start the clock.
  • See how much time passes until you burp.
  • Stop timing after five minutes.
  • People who make enough stomach acid generally burp within two to three minutes. If you went past that without burping, its time to open up the conversation with your doctor or nutritionist about low stomach acid. A doctor might follow up with a test involving an electronic pill that detects stomach acidity or with a test involving removing stomach contents with a gastric tube and testing acidity that way.

    What Kinds Of Complications Are Caused By Frequent Heartburn

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    • Excess stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers, damage to the inner layers of the esophageal wall, and narrowing .
    • Very rarely, the esophagus may bleed or tear completely because it is so damaged. In severe cases, a person may vomit blood or have small amounts of blood in bowel movements, found only on testing the stool.
    • Regurgitated stomach acid can damage the respiratory tract, causing asthma, hoarseness, chronic cough, sore throat, or tooth damage . A person may feel as if he or she has a lump in the throat.
    • If the acid exposure continues for long periods of time, the esophagus becomes thick and damaged. A person may then have difficulty swallowing and food becomes stuck.

    Read Also: How To Prevent Heartburn After Eating

    Take An Acid Neutralizer

    When heartburn hits and you need relief, try an antacid like Tums, Rolaids, or Maalox. These medications act quickly to neutralize the acid in the stomach, which can reduce your symptoms. Dont have any on hand? Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in eight ounces of water and drink to neutralize the acid in your stomach. Just use caution with this home remedy since its high in sodium and shouldnt be used by people on a sodium-restricted diet.

    Learn more: Treating GERD with medications: What you need to know

    We also like H-2 blockers, also known as Histamine H2-receptor antagonists. These include such brand names a Pepcid, Pepcid AC, Tagamet, and Zantac. These medications dont work as quickly as acid neutralizers, but they are still very fast. H2 blockers should be taken about 30 minutes before you eat or when you typically experience symptoms.

    The benefit of H2 blockers is that they work longer than antacids, but they dont have the same medical risks associated with proton pump inhibitors. As is true with all medications we highly recommend that you discuss use with your doctor before you begin any drug treatment, prescription or over-the-counter.

    And remember that while these quick fixes may help relieve your GERD symptoms, they dont address the underlying cause of those symptoms. Your goal should be to stop reflux from happening in the first place, which is why we recommend several long-term solutions to cure heartburn.

    Try Slippery Elm To Get Rid Of Heartburn

    Slippery elm has been traditionally used by Native Americans for treating various conditions including wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, skin inflammation as well as coughs, sore throats, diarrhea, and stomach problems. The herb has mucilage, a component that converts into a slick gel when it is mixed with water. It gives slippery elm its demulcent property due to which it coats and soothes the area where it is directed. In case of heartburn, it coats the layer of mucous that lines your stomach and thus creates a barrier against acid that could not find its way up to your esophagus.

    Get this:

    • Add the slippery elm powder to water or milk whatever you are comfortable with.
    • Stir it well to mix the powder completely into the water.
    • You may have it 1-3 times a day depending upon the severity of your heartburn.
    • Have this herbal drink after your meals and at bedtime.

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    Aloe Vera Syrup Products

    Aloe vera juice has been used in traditional medicine to heal irritation of the esophagus. It is unwise to use unprocessed aloe vera sap as it contains laxative compounds, but some products are formulated for internal use. AloeCure contains organic aloe juice and is marketed as an all-natural remedy for digestive disorders, including heartburn. Some trials, including a 2015 study, have found aloe vera syrup to be effective for heartburn symptoms. Note that consuming aloe can lower your blood sugar levels. Discuss the use of aloe with your doctor if you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, heart disease, or electrolyte abnormalities.

    Foods To Consume During Heartburn

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    A variety of food items and natural herbs are known to relieve heartburn.

    Some provide instant but short term relief others might need regular consumption to show any long term signs of amelioration of the symptoms.

    It is always advised to consult a dietician for a proper diet chart that includes food items that donât trigger heartburn along with the inclusion of certain herbs in the diet which relieves acid reflux.

    Given below are some of the foods that can be consumed during chronic heartburn.

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    Is Gerd Dangerous Or Life

    GERD isnt life-threatening or dangerous in itself. But long-term GERD can lead to more serious health problems:

    • Esophagitis: Esophagitis is the irritation and inflammation the stomach acid causes in the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause ulcers in your esophagus, heartburn, chest pain, bleeding and trouble swallowing.
    • Barrett’s esophagus: Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in some people who have long-term GERD. The damage acid reflux can cause over years can change the cells in the lining of the esophagus. Barretts esophagus is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
    • Esophageal cancer: Cancer that begins in the esophagus is divided into two major types. Adenocarcinoma usually develops in the lower part of the esophagus. This type can develop from Barretts esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells that line the esophagus. This cancer usually affects the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
    • Strictures: Sometimes the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes scarred, causing narrowing of the esophagus. These strictures can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach.

    Foods That May Cause Heartburn

    Foods commonly known to be heartburn triggers cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and delay the digestive process, letting food sit in the stomach longer, says Gupta. The worst culprits? Foods that are high in fat, salt or spice such as:

    • Fried food
    • Peppermint
    • Carbonated beverages

    “Moderation is key since many people may not be able to or want to completely eliminate these foods,” says Gupta. “But try to avoid eating problem foods late in the evening closer to bedtime, so they’re not sitting in your stomach and then coming up your esophagus when you lay down at night. It’s also a good idea to eat small frequent meals instead of bigger, heavier meals and avoid late-night dinners and bedtime snacks.”

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    What Are The Main Symptoms Of Gerd

    The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.

    What About Coffee For Heartburn

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    Get ready for some bad news: For many people, a morning cup of coffee is a strong heartburn trigger. While theres no hard medical research that coffee causes heartburn, theres enough anecdotal evidence that its best to steer clear if you cant identify the source of your discomfort. Or cut it out for a day or two to see how your body reacts. If eliminating coffee eases your symptoms, caffeine may be a trigger. Try decaf instead or one of these caffeine alternatives.

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    When Heartburn Becomes Frequent

    Sometimes heartburn may be a symptom of a more severe problem like gastroesophageal reflux disease , which is the chronic form of acid reflux. If your acid reflux occurs more than twice a week for a few weeks, it may be due to GERD. Its a disease where you have significant symptoms from acid reflux and/or evidence of damage to your esophagus. Americans are no stranger to GERD either it affects around 20 percent of the population.

    In addition to burning or sharp chest pain, symptoms of GERD can include regurgitation , nausea, a recurring sour or bitter taste in your mouth, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, dry cough, bad breath, damage to tooth enamel, wheezing or repeatedly needing to clear your throat.

    Use Fennel And Its Seeds For Heartburn Cure

    Fennel has a pH of 6.9 and thus is included in effective foods for heartburn relief. In fact, this herb is good not only for heartburn but many other diseases or conditions related to stomach problems such as indigestion, constipation, flatulence and bloating. Fennel has a volatile oil made up of such components as fenchone, trans-anethole, limonene and a-pinene. All these substances have a carminative effect that provides soothing relief to your stomach and prevents all kinds of digestive disorders including heartburn. The crunchy vegetables as well as the seeds of fennel, both are effective for heartburn.

    Ways to Use Fennel for Heartburn

  • Chop the white bottom part of fennel in thin slices and add this to some arugula and baby spinach to make a wonderful salad.
  • Use the vegetable in various dishes including chicken dishes.
  • Snack on the crunchy fennel.
  • Chew some fennel seeds after your meals for better digestion that will prevent heartburn.
  • Take 1 tsp of fennel tincture thrice a day.
  • You may also take half a teaspoon of liquid fennel extract every day. However, use either tincture or liquid extract and not both of them.
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    What To Avoid In Chronic Heartburn

    Diet and Lifestyle plays an important role in the occurrence of GERD or chronic heartburn and if a proper healthy way of living is followed regularly, significant relief from the symptoms can be provided.

    It can also reduce the dependency of a person on anti-heartburn drugs, which have their own side effects.

    There are a number of lifestyle and diet modifications which are necessary to provide long term relief from chronic heartburn and prevent its occurrence again .

    What Should People With Chronic Heartburn Do

    Stop Severe Heartburn 101

    Chronic heartburn or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a severe form of heartburn, a disorder in which the acid from the stomach refluxes back up in the oesophagus to cause pain and inflammation.

    In this disease, the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle which is supposed to guide the stomach entrance, opens up to give way to the acid to flow up, causing heartburn.

    This is caused generally by improper diet, poor lifestyle and obesity but other pathological or physiological conditions may be responsible too.

    Heartburn is treated easily and is a common disorder, but its negligence leads to a chronic form which requires more attention and complex medications .

    Generally, chronic heartburn involves more complex, intense and long-lasting symptoms as opposed to those which are experienced in normal heartburn.

    These include an increase in the frequency of the acid reflux, nausea, and vomiting, bitter taste in the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, cough, wheezing, inflammation and pain in the chest.

    The symptoms of chronic heartburn occur more frequently than those of heartburn and cannot be treated by antacids or simple medications which provide only momentary relief .

  • Summary
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    Watch What You Eat Drink And Do

    Making some changes to your lifestyle can go a long way toward easing the pain of heartburn.

    Say goodbye to cigarettes. Smoking causes your body to make less saliva, a liquid that helps stamp out stomach acid. That can lead to burning in your esophagus. Tobacco may also cause your stomach to make more acid and relax the muscles at the lower end of your esophagus that can shut down the opening between the stomach and the esophagus. Chewing gum and sucking on lozenges can help you make more saliva.

    Avoid trigger foods. For many people, these are spicy and high-fat foods, chocolate, peppermint and other mints, coffee, citrus fruits or juices, tomato products, carbonated drinks, and onions.

    Donât lie down after you eat. If you need an afternoon siesta, snooze upright in a chair. Eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed, and donât make the last meal of the day your biggest one.

    Raise the head of your bed. If the top of your bed is higher than the bottom, itâs harder for the acid to travel up. You can do this with a block of wood under the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress.

    Be careful what medications you use. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other medications, such as some sedatives and blood pressure drugs, can trigger heartburn. Ask your doctor if any of your medications might be causing your symptoms. There may be something else you can take.

    Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing, including belts, can cause stomach contents to push upward.

    Heartburn Relief With Over The Counter Medicine

    When it comes to heartburn relief, antacids are the most popular and least expensive choice. These products neutralize the acid in your stomach to help with a sour stomach, indigestion, and other unpleasant feelings that are associated with heartburn. Some antacids also contain an ingredient to help rid the body of excess gas. Be aware that certain products may also contain ingredients that could cause diarrhea, like magnesium. Others could contain aluminum which can cause constipation. Antacids typically come in the form of a tablet or liquid. Take them according to the directions on the package and chew tablets thoroughly before swallowing to get faster relief.

    Recommended Reading: Why Do I Heartburn All The Time

    Apple Cider Vinegar For Heartburn

    It seems counterintuitive that something acidic like vinegar could help treat heartburn, but heres a twist: Sometimes, the painful sensation occurs if your stomach doesnt have enough acid to help digest the food, says Brenda Rea, M.D., R.D., a professor of medicine at Loma Linda University in California. The longer food sits in your stomach before being broken down, the greater the risk that it will cause indigestion and heartburn. A teaspoon of diluted unprocessed apple cider may provide your stomach with the acid it needs to digest the food. Its worth noting that there is no scientific proof that the vinegar trick works , and it could make your heartburn worse, so proceed with caution.

    What Do I Do If I Think I Have Gerd

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    With GERD when reflux and heartburn happen more than once in a while the tissue lining your esophagus is getting battered regularly with stomach acid. Eventually the tissue becomes damaged. If you have this chronic acid reflux and heartburn you can see its affecting your daily eating and sleeping habits.

    When GERD makes your daily life uncomfortable in this way, call your healthcare provider. Although GERD isnt life-threatening in itself, its chronic inflammation of the esophagus can lead to something more serious. You may need stronger prescription medications or even surgery to ease your symptoms.

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