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Heartburn/GORD health centre

How to get rid of heartburn

Treatment tips for severe, chronic heartburn
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Most of us have a touch of heartburn sometimes. It’s that burning feeling behind the breastbone in the chest - that’s sometimes felt in the throat too.

Acid reflux, and subsequently heartburn, occurs when acid from the stomach rises up into the oesophagus. This happens when the stomach produces too much acid, or the band of muscle around the end of the oesophagus is weakened so acid is able to leak backwards up into the oesophagus (gullet), inflaming its lining, causing the heartburn.

There are different treatments for heartburn depending on how severe it is, how often you experience it and what is causing it.

Heartburn relief

Heartburn symptoms can range from a temporary inconvenience caused by over-indulgence to pain that disturbs sleep and lasts for hours.

It is a also a symptom of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease ( GORD) which experts believe up to 10% of people in the UK experience.

The good news is there are plenty of treatment options for heartburn symptoms.

What causes heartburn?

"It’s common for everyone to have occasional heartburn if they’ve had a lot of coffee, tobacco or alcohol or have over-indulged," says consultant gastro-intestinal surgeon Andrew Jenkinson. "They all contribute to the reflux and may be dealt with by lifestyle changes."

Diet changes

You might want to try changes to your diet as a first resort. Azmina Govindji is a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. Her top tips are:

  • Drink less alcohol because it irritates the stomach and makes it produce more acid than usual.
  • Take the time to chew your food and avoid large, heavy meals, especially before bedtime, as this reduces your chances of heartburn.
  • Have fewer rich meals to reduce your chances of developing heartburn as high fat foods take longer to digest and remain in your stomach for longer.

For some people heartburn is made worse by caffeine, spicy foods, citrus juice or very hot drinks.

Lifestyle changes

It’s also good to prop the head of your bed up to limit symptoms.

Stress, being overweight and smoking may also contribute to heartburn, so take time to relax and aim to get to a healthy weight. Your GP or pharmacist can help you try to give up smoking as it is bad for your health for a host of well-known reasons. Heartburn is just one of them.

Pregnancy is a time when heartburn is much more likely because of hormonal changes and the growing uterus squashing the stomach pushing more acid into the oesophagus.

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