Feel the burn

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(Photo: iStock)

A recent study has made headlines for finding a link between a popular heartburn medication and greater mortality risk. One of the most concerning parts about this is just how common a problem heartburn is for many of us. While you should never just stop taking prescribed medication without a discussion with your doctor, when it comes to heartburn, it’s good to remember that there are also things we can do
to help reduce our risk that don’t involve medication, such as:

  1. Keep an eye out for trigger foods and keep them to a minimum.
    Heartburn happens when stomach acid rises into the oesophagus and causes pain. Some people find that certain trigger foods lead to this happening more often. Common trigger foods include fatty or spicy foods, those high in caffeine like coffee or cola, citrus fruits, chocolate and peppermint.
  2. Go for smaller meals.
    The fuller your stomach, the more likely stomach acid will rise. A ring of muscle
    at the top of your stomach has the job of letting food into your stomach and then tightening to prevent acid coming back up. If this muscle weakens, it can be a cause of chronic heartburn. Smaller, more frequent meals, rather than large ones, may put less stress on an already weakened muscle.

  3. Take a lifestyle approach.
    Losing weight if you are overweight and stopping smoking if you smoke can also help lower your risk of heartburn. Avoid lying down after meals.

    While medications can have tremendous benefits for our health, it’s important  we don’t ignore the many opportunities we have to help build and maintain health through diet and lifestyle as well.

What is GORD?

While most of us will experience heartburn at some time in our lives, maybe due to over-indulgence or anxiety, it becomes a serious issue when it becomes chronic. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is chronic reflux that can lead to other health complications and have a big impact on quality of life.

Untreated GORD can lead to complications such as oesophageal ulcers and strictures—making swallowing difficult and painful. It can also increase the risk of developing oesophageal cancer.

While heartburn itself can often feel like just a nuisance pain, one that’s easy to forget once it’s over, if it happens regularly it can lead to very serious consequences. So if you regularly experience heartburn, talk to your doctor about treatment options and make a start on lifestyle changes today. These small changes can have a big effect on long-term health and happiness.

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