Heartburn is basically a burning sensation in the upper chest region of the body. It is caused by any form of inflammation in the esophagus. Heartburn can occur casually sometimes after eating certain kinds of food, e.g spicy food.
However, frequent heartburn ranging above thrice a week might be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. This condition is a more severe form of acid reflux; where acidic contents from the stomach reflux back into the esophagus and attack the surface linings thereby causing inflammation.
Checking for the right treatment for your heartburn can be quite stressful but there is a variety of over the counter medicine and natural remedies one can select from.
GERD VS HEARTBURN
It’s important to note that you can’t treat GERD with just simple heartburn reliefs or medications. The first and most important step in choosing your heartburn relief is to ensure it’s not a symptom of GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a more severe condition that would require more advanced treatment than that of common heartburn. Heartburn is one of the major symptoms of GERD; but when you begin to feel other symptoms, it’s most likely GERD. Some of the common other symptoms include Dry cough, bloating, regurgitation, bloody vomit, hiccuping, etc.
Leaving GERD untreated for a long period of time can lead to life-threatening complications such as esophageal cancer. So, it’s best to visit the hospital for proper diagnosis when you experience symptoms other than heartburn.
NATURAL HEARTBURN RELIEF
The use of natural remedies has been in existence for as long as we can remember. While there are no extensive research and conclusions on the safe consumption of some of these natural medications yet, there are still quite a number of them that have proven effective for certain conditions. For heartburn, there are several natural reliefs one can use for treatment.
TYPES OF NATURAL HEARTBURN RELIEF
Just as earlier cited, there are different natural remedies people opt for to help relieve heartburn symptoms. Some of them include:
♦ Baking Soda
Baking Soda, which is Sodium bicarbonate, is alkaline in nature. It helps neutralize the acidity in the esophagus when taken in. Baking Soda is edible so there’s no fear about whether it’s safe for consumption or not, but it shouldn’t be taken in excess. When raw Sodium bicarbonate is consumed excessively, it could cause a cardiovascular complication that’s dangerous to the health.
Many times, Milk is one of our first go-to when we have symptoms of heartburn. Milk is also alkaline, so it helps soothe the burning sensation. The major concern with using milk is the fact that it only provides temporary relief if it’s high in fat. The fat can worsen the heartburn once the milk is being digested. So, you need to check for milk low in fats.
♦ Chewing gums
Research has shown that chewing gums can reduce acidity in the esophagus. When we chew gum, there is increased production of saliva in the mouth. The saliva contains enzymes like ptyalin that are alkaline in nature.
When the saliva goes down the esophagus, it reacts with the acidic content and neutralizes it. Swallowing the saliva itself can assist in pushing acidic contents back into the stomach.
Also, Chewing gums often contain bicarbonates that are effective for relieving heartburn. Using this remedy is largely safe except when you chew the gums in large quantities and stand at risk of developing diarrhea because of the added artificial sugary contents.
OVER THE COUNTER MEDICINE (OTC)
Over the counter medicines are simply drugs you can purchase without having a doctor’s prescription. You can easily walk into a pharmaceutical store and request them without presenting any form of prescription slip.
Examples of common over the counter drugs are cough and cold medicines, pain relievers, antacids, etc. OTC drugs are relatively safe to use if you accurately follow the prescription written in the drug labels or as your doctor might have advised.
Often times, over the counter drugs are being used to treat minor gastrointestinal problems. When you have used different natural heartburn relievers and the symptoms are still persisting, doctors immediately suggest the use of OTC medications.
TYPES OF HEARTBURN OVER THE COUNTER MEDICATION
There are mainly three types of over the counter medications that can be used for the treatment of heartburn symptoms. They are:
Antacids: This is the most common one among the trio. Many families even purchase antacids when grocery shopping for easy reach when needed.
They contain alkaline contents like magnesium, calcium, sodium bicarbonate, etc. Antacids help relieve heartburn by neutralizing the stomach acidic contents that might reflux back into the esophagus. Examples of antacids include milk of magnesia, alternagel, turns, etc.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Proton pump inhibitors are mostly used to treat conditions like Gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach ulcer, esophageal inflammation, etc.
Just like antacids, they also help relieve heartburn by reducing the number of acidic contents in the stomach. They ensure the stomach doesn’t produce acidic juices for a period of time. Examples of PPIs include lansoprazole, esomeprazole, Omeprazole magnesium, etc.
H2 blockers: H2 blockers is the last in the trio. It also performs a similar task like antacids and PPIs by attacking the acid in the stomach. They react with the contents and neutralize the effects. Examples of H2 -blockers include cimetidine, famotidine, Ranitidine, nizatidine, etc.
DO NATURAL HEARTBURN RELIEF WORK?
There are several evidence from the usage of natural remedies that have proven their effectiveness for heartburn relief. We’ve been able to establish the fact that heartburn is a result of inflammation in the esophagus caused by refluxed acidic contents. One of the major ways to attack the symptom is by adding alkaline contents to neutralize the effects of the acid.
Different examples of natural heartburn relief cited are seen to contain high-level alkalinity with the presence of elements like calcium, sodium, magnesium, bicarbonate, etc. Many of them work for soothing the heartburn symptoms as intended.
Although few have temporary effects especially when not taken in moderation, it eases the discomfort till you can take proper medications or see a doctor. So yes, natural heartburn relief does work.
NATURAL VS OVER THE COUNTER TREATMENT
Usually, many are scared about the safety of using natural remedies and often decide to opt for over the counter drugs because they believe it has been tested thoroughly.
But many natural remedies are from edible contents and there are several benefits one can get from them. They are easy to use and cheaper. First aid treatment can be easily gotten from natural remedies before having to see a doctor.
Even many drugs are synthesized from natural sources. OTC drugs are quite beneficial especially because you don’t exactly need a doctor’s prescription. For your heartburn symptoms, you can always use natural relief and opt for over the counter medications when symptoms persist.
LIFESTYLES THAT HELP RELIEVE HEARTBURN
There are several lifestyles one should adopt in the home to help relieve heartburn and reduce risks of developing one. They’re things that we should be able to do regularly. Some of them include:
Eating Habits: You need to watch how you eat when you eat and most importantly what you eat.
Spicy food, high foods high in fat, caffeine, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, alcohol, etc easily put one at risk of developing heartburn symptoms. When you have heartburn, you need to avoid eating them. Even after treatment, if you want to consume any of it, it should be in small proportions and not often.
Stop eating close to bedtime! You should always watch out for when you eat. Eating within two hours of going to bed can trigger refluxing of acid when you lay down.
If possible, you can start rationing your food so you don’t eat too much at once. Eating too much upsets the stomach and can press down the diaphragm. When the diaphragm is misplaced, stomach juices move back into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
You can decide to eat your food in portions; five to six times daily instead of eating heavy thrice. That way, your food will easily digest.
Smoking: Smoking can damage the lining of the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. It’s advisable to quit smoking especially when you have incessant heartburn symptoms.
Exercise: Exercising regularly is very effective in preventing heartburn or acid reflux. When you exercise, you tend to lose excess fats that might be obstructing the stomach. Exercise also aids digestion.
Wear Free Clothes: Tight clothes can compress the stomach and obstruct the smooth passage of food contents. When this happens, stomach juices are prone to flow back into the esophagus. It’s advisable to always put on clothes that will still be free even after you eat.
Sleeping: It’s recommended to always have a good night’s sleep. You should also tilt your bed in a way that allows your upper body to be raised during sleep in order to reduce the risk of acid reflux.
Choosing Natural heartburn relief or over the counter medicine often depend on availability and how persistent symptoms are.
However, simple lifestyle changes and proper eating habits can exponentially reduce the risk of developing heartburn symptoms.
Lastly, you should always consider other symptoms of GERD before treating heartburn solely.