Ever wonder what causes reflux and why it hurts so much? The bottom line for most people is that we inflict it on ourselves. What we eat, habits we engage in, and even how we sleep are the culprits behind this misery known as heartburn.
A Rose By Any Other Name
It goes by many names, but no matter how you spin it, indigestion is downright awful. Reflux, indigestion, and GERD all lead to that inferno in your chest that makes you feel like it’s literally on fire. What it really is, though, is the hydrochloric acid from your stomach sneaking up where it doesn’t belong and settling in your esophagus.
No matter the severity of your symptoms, they’re all an indicator that you’ve made your tummy pretty angry. Symptoms can range from mild, acidic burping to level 47 pain and inability to breathe. Whatever your level of discomfort is, you probably want to know how to treat it and how to avoid it in the future.
Yes, You Probably Did It To Yourself
Most of the time, our bodies don’t respond with a severe physical reaction unless we’ve done something to make it mad. Like falling off the bunk bed and breaking your arm, for example, triggers a physical response that sends you to the hospital. The same is true for our stomachs.
When we eat certain foods that are difficult to digest, it makes our stomach produce excess acid to get the job done. That’s what it’s designed for, after all. Taking certain medications and engaging in other unhealthy habits, along with putting unfriendly foods in our bellies can all lead to heartburn. Let’s look at some common triggers:
Unhealthy habit numero one is smoking. I know you know that smoking is pretty bad for your health, but did you know that it also causes significant damage to your esophagus and stomach? At the base of your esophagus lies a small opening. It’s called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and its purpose is to keep us from regurgitating our stomach contents.
When you smoke, you cause it to not function properly. So, not only is acid rising back up more easily, when it does, it burns your already damaged esophagus with a much greater vengeance.
Anything That Puts Pressure On Your Stomach
This one should be a no-brainer. If you’ve ever carefully chosen your pants before you hit up the buffet, you already know. Pregnant women are also no stranger to this phenomenon.
When you apply pressure to your stomach, it makes sense that whatever is in it wants to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is backwards and it leads to some pretty uncomfortable situations. The simple solution (for most people) is to eat smaller portions.
Drinking Alcohol And Caffeinated Beverages
Drinking coffee is part of many people’s morning routine. So is having a cocktail with dinner. The issue is that when you over consume these products, or even consume them on a daily basis, they cause the acid content in your stomach to become unbalanced. Why? Well, because both of these beverages are high in acidity on their own. Avoidance is best, but moderation will suffice.
Ahh yes, spicy foods. And not JUST spicy foods, anything deep-fried, tomato-based (or red in color in general), chocolatey, and cheesy are all things that can lead to heartburn. I know, I know. That’s literally everything worth living for in the food world, but for people with sensitive stomachs, you should do your best to make other food choices or learn to live with the consequences.
Remedies And Relievers
Did you know that one-third of the population experiences heartburn daily? That’s a lot of people needlessly suffering. Most people resort to prescription or over-the-counter remedies for relief, and while that isn’t necessarily wrong, some of them can be potentially dangerous.
Zantac and ranitidine are prime examples and are no longer available for consumption in the US. These products contain a known carcinogen (NMDA, N-Nitrosodimethylamine) and after the FDA pulled them from the shelves in 2018, many people have taken up litigation claiming they were diagnosed with cancer as a result of consuming them.
This isn’t to say that everyone who ever took Zantac will develop cancer but if you did, you might be entitled to compensation. An attorney specializing in Zantac lawsuits can offer assistance.
Don’t get your undies in a bundle though, there are still several remedies and ways to find relief available:
Again, if you’re a smoker, the evidence is pretty clear that you should stop. Due to the damage to the LES and esophagus, it’s no wonder people who smoke have much higher incidents of heartburn.
Eat A Banana
Foods that are rich in potassium, like ripe bananas and melons, are alkaline. Alkaline foods neutralize acid, so if you need a quick fix, snack on a banana.
Sugar-free gum, specifically. There’s science behind this phenomenon but chewing gum makes you salivate and swallow more often, which both have a positive effect on acid reflux.
You’ve probably heard of TUMS and likely taken a few yourself. So long as the only ingredient is Calcium, taking such products to reduce the fizz in your tummy isn’t harmful.
That’s right, the way you sit or sleep can have a tremendous impact on indigestion woes. Sit up straight to give your stomach the room it needs for digestion and when it comes to sleeping, sleep on your left side. Why?
The shape of the stomach and location of the LES are designed in a way that when you sleep on your right side, gravity forces the acid the wrong way. Lying on your left side allows food to settle in the largest part of the stomach, away from the sphincter.
Heartburn is different for everyone and some of these suggestions may just not work for you. If you’re experiencing ongoing, severe symptoms of indigestion, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be indicators of more serious underlying conditions and shouldn’t be ignored…not that you can ignore heartburn even if you wanted to.