Heartburn awareness week 2016
Next week is “Heartburn awareness Week”! Heartburn is an extremely common condition that is often referred to as stomach acid reflux. Reflux is where acid flows back from the stomach into our food pipe. This can cause the food pipe to become irritated and painful. People often experience heartburn after eating a large meal or drinking alcohol. Symptoms can be exacerbated by bending over or lying down.
It is important to be aware when your symptoms are just heartburn that can be treated with over the counter remedies from the pharmacy and when your symptoms are more serious and should be discussed with a doctor.
Most of the time people experience heartburn occasionally. This sort of heartburn can be treated by taking an over the counter preparation called an antacid or an alginate several times a day. These work by neutralising the acid or forming a raft to reduce the symptoms. Examples of these include Rennies, Maalox or Gaviscon. You can get tablet or liquid preparations. Liquid remedies tend to work quicker but chewable tablets are very convenient and easier to take while out and about. Your pharmacist can help choose an appropriate one for your symptoms and current medications.
If the heartburn is more frequent then you may need a stronger tablet know as a H2 blocker (eg. Zantac) or proton pump inhibitors (eg. Losec, Nexium, Pantaloc). All of these medications need to be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist. You can know buy short courses of these tablets over the counter but they can interfere with prescribed medications so must be discussed with your pharmacist. They work by lowering the amount of acid in your stomach. They are much longer acting than an antacid but may take a few days to fully relieve symptoms..
There are lifestyle measures that can help. These include the following;
Try to lose weight- Excess weight pushes up your stomach causing acid to back flow.
Eat at a steady pace and keep portions small
Quit smoking- Smoking can increase stomach acid.
Eat healthy foods- Fatty, fried and spicy food may make heartburn worse. Excess caffeine and alcohol consumption can also aggravate heartburn symptoms.
Avoid eating just before bedtime- Lying down after eating increases the chances of acid moving from the stomach into the food pipe.
Raise up the head of your bed or sleep on a few pillows- This helps keep acid in your stomach at night by taking advantage of gravity.
If you have any of the following you should definitely speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible;
Rapid weight loss for no reason
Blood in your stools or vomit
Severe or persistent diarrhoea
Issues when swallowing
If your heartburn doesn’t improve after 2 weeks of medication.
Call into your local pharmacy this week to discuss your symptoms. There are simple solutions to heartburn that can ease your pain and relieve the irritation. Letting heartburn go untreated can cause damage to your food pipe in the long run. It is important that we all raise our awareness of the signs and symptoms of heartburn.