Your stomach makes one and a half liters of stomach acid every day. Gastric acid is a digestive juice. It contains, among other things, hydrochloric acid, an aggressive liquid that helps digest food quickly and efficiently. In addition, it also kills any pathogenic bacteria that have come along. Your stomach is probably lined with a thick layer of mucus and therefore well protected against this acid. Your esophagus does not have such a protective layer and is therefore vulnerable to the corrosive acid. To prevent damage from stomach acid, the junction between the esophagus and the stomach is closed by an esophageal sphincter. This sphincter makes sure that the transition is only open when a bite of food is on its way to the stomach. But sometimes the muscle does not close enough and the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This causes the burning sensation, throat problems, dental problems (stomach acid can damage the enamel), coughing and in extreme cases irritation or inflammation of the esophagus.
Combination of factors
Lifestyle and eating habits often ensure that the esophageal sphincter does not retain enough acid or that too much stomach acid is produced. Eating too much, too fast or too greasy, or excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, soda and cigarettes and possibly stress, all have an effect on heartburn. Usually it is a combination of factors. If you suffer from heartburn, the following advice may help.
Be careful what you eat
People with heartburn can pretty much eat and drink anything. What makes one person’s complaints worse does not cause problems for another. So try what gives you complaints. Products that often cause heartburn are alcohol, peppermint, onions, spicy herbs, chocolate, coffee, tea and cola. Other carbonated beverages can also cause complaints, as can acidic fruit juices such as orange juice. Milk is often recommended in normal amounts, precisely because it neutralizes the stomach acid. For example, a few sips of milk can reduce the symptoms of heartburn. Do not drink extra large amounts of milk, as it stimulates the secretion of acid. Drinking small sips of water or chewing gum can also relieve symptoms of heartburn. Chewing produces saliva, and like drinking small sips of water, it can ensure that stomach acid flows in the right direction and does not rise.
see how you eat
A general guideline for heartburn is that high-fat meals and large amounts often cause complaints. It is therefore better to eat 6 small than 3 large meals a day. This prevents the stomach from getting too full and prevents the stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus. The way you eat also affects the risk of heartburn. Eat slowly and chew well. This makes it easier for the food to mix with digestive enzymes from your saliva, which helps with digestion. Sit upright during and after eating so that your stomach does not get pinched. Try not to eat too late in the evening and sit or stand upright for at least 3 hours after a meal. If you lie down with a full stomach, the stomach contents increase faster.
What else can you be aware of?
People often have complaints, especially at night when lying in bed or when bending over. This has to do with the position of the stomach and esophagus. You can even reduce the pressure on your stomach. Lift the head off your bed and preferably sleep on the left side. For example, your stomach is lower than your esophagus, so your food is not likely to go back to your throat. It is better not to put an extra pillow under your head, because then you are in a ‘kink’ and it will increase the pressure in the stomach. If there is a lot of fat around your waist, the pressure on the organs in your abdomen is greater. This can cause symptoms such as heartburn. Therefore, ensure a healthy weight and do not wear tight clothing. Smoking can also cause heartburn. Nicotine can relax the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach so that the stomach contents can increase again. And finally: relax! When you are tense, your body produces more stomach acid. Also, the squeezing motion of the stomach may become slower or more irregular. It is therefore not surprising that you may experience stomach problems when you are nervous or tense. Stress, by the way, can not in itself cause a stomach illness, but it can aggravate existing ailments.