1 in 5 Dutch people suffer from heartburn every week. What can you do about it?
Ingrid Kuiper (GP): Heartburn causes a burning sensation behind the sternum, which can rise into your throat. Heartburn problems are caused by stomach acid flowing back from the stomach into the esophagus:reflux. This happens when the muscle that separates the stomach and esophagus doesn't function properly. A rupture in the diaphragm can also cause heartburn. The upper part of the stomach can rise up into the chest cavity in the event of a rupture, causing stomach acid to irritate the esophagus.
If this happens for a long time, an inflammation of the esophagus can develop (oesophagitis). Chronic esophagitis increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Alcohol use, smoking and obesity also play a role in this.
Heartburn often worsens with an increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity, for example if you lift, bend or squeeze something. Even after a meal and when you lie flat, the complaints can get worse. Usually medicines provide a solution; antacids (such as Rennies), H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. In principle, these drugs can be used for life without significant side effects.
If necessary, a gastroscopy, in which a flexible scope is used to look into the esophagus and stomach, can be used to determine the cause of the heartburn. This is usually only done if someone does not respond to medication.
You can also take measures yourself; avoid gas-producing foods (cabbage, carbonated drinks), too much coffee, alcohol and orange juice, peppermint, chocolate and fatty foods. Do not wear constricting clothing, do not eat too late at night and raise the head of your bed if necessary. Quitting smoking can also help.”
Gonneke Kloet (naturopathic therapist): Heartburn can develop if too much stomach acid is produced. In addition to the burning sensation, you often also have a bloated feeling and pain in the upper abdomen, and sometimes even a hoarse voice.
To normalize gastric acid production, a healthy diet is first and foremost important. Eat small portions, not too fat and avoid irritating substances such as herbs and spices. Also be careful with protein-rich foods, which increase stomach acid production. Eat fruit preferably on an empty stomach or fifteen minutes before a meal, so that it does not ferment in the stomach. Drinking a lot of water is good to cleanse the digestive system, but it is better not to drink during a meal, because that disrupts the stomach acid production.
Other tips:avoid medicines that irritate the stomach lining, such as some painkillers, and do not bend, but bend your knees. I also recommend stopping smoking and avoiding being overweight. Exercise is fine; it stimulates the stomach and digestion. Finally, stress increases stomach acid production. So make sure you have enough relaxation.'