Call it what you like reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), chest discomfort, a burning sensation, sour taste, or just plain heartburn. Whatever you call it, heartburn is that uncomfortable feeling that most everyone has experienced, and it can affect your health. Heartburn is when acid from the stomach backs up into your food pipe (esophagus) and may even go as high as your throat or mouth. Symptoms may occur shortly after eating or when sleeping and can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours.
Research shows a link between obesity and heartburn, especially if a person carries a lot of the extra weight in their belly (or abdominal) area. Excess weight in the belly area can put additional pressure on the stomach which may cause heartburn. Many people ignore their heartburn, which can be dangerous. When acid backs up into the esophagus it causes irritation and inflammation. Additional problems can occur because of the constant irritation.
There are things you can do to control your heartburn without taking a pill. Avoid spicy foods, caffeine, high-fat meals, alcohol and smoking. Additionally, decrease your stress, eat smaller meals and limit night-time snacking. You can also try sleeping with your head elevated on pillows or raising the head of your bed by placing the headboard on blocks to make it higher than the footboard. Losing weight, even a 5-10% weight loss, is highly recommended as an effective treatment for heartburn.
Don’t just ignore heartburn. Taking steps to improve your heartburn may assist in eliminating the condition or decrease the amount of medication necessary to control it.
By: Molly McBrayer, Clinical Manager, Roper St. Francis Bariatric and Metabolic Services