Do you feel the burn?

When small amounts of stom­ach acid travel up the throat, it can ir­ri­tate the oe­soph­a­gus. LIZ CON­NOR hears all about re­flux

Gloucestershire Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

THERE’S noth­ing that will spoil an ex­pen­sive meal in a nice restau­rant quite like the ‘fire in the chest’ sen­sa­tion of acid re­flux. This com­mon con­di­tion af­fects many peo­ple in vary­ing de­grees and is char­ac­terised by its most both­er­some symp­tom – a burn­ing feel­ing in the throat that can leave the chest area feel­ing raw and ir­ri­tated.

Although acid re­flux is very com­mon and doesn’t pose any se­ri­ous threat to your health, it can be un­pleas­ant to ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially if it’s a re­cur­ring is­sue.

Here, we ask ex­perts to ex­plain ev­ery­thing you need to know and, most im­por­tantly, what you can do to ban­ish the burn for good.

What is acid re­flux?

“ACID re­flux is a com­mon con­di­tion that in­cludes a burn­ing pain, known as heart­burn, in the chest,” says Dr Arun Thiya­gara­jan, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Bupa (bupa.co.uk).

The pain you feel dur­ing an episode is largely down to the acidic stom­ach con­tents be­ing forced up into the oe­soph­a­gus – the tube con­nect­ing the mouth and stom­ach.

“Also known as gas­tro-oe­sophageal re­flux dis­ease, this process brings stom­ach acids and en­zymes into con­tact with the sen­si­tive lin­ing of the oe­soph­a­gus,” ex­plains Dr Sarah Brewer, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Healthspan (healthspan.co.uk).

“The main symp­toms of acid re­flux in­clude heart­burn, a burn­ing sen­sa­tion in the mid­dle of your chest and an un­pleas­ant sour taste in your mouth that is caused by the trav­el­ling stom­ach acid,” says Dr Thiya­gara­jan.

Your symp­toms are likely to be worse af­ter eat­ing and when ly­ing down, which is why most peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence the re­flux ef­fect af­ter eat­ing a big din­ner.

As well as caus­ing a burn­ing pain, ex­perts ex­plain that acid re­flux can trig­ger a painful spasm of sur­round­ing mus­cles.

“Some peo­ple with acid re­flux do not ex­pe­ri­ence ob­vi­ous symp­toms, how­ever this ‘silent re­flux’ may con­trib­ute to some cases of hoarse­ness, voice prob­lems, cough, sen­sa­tions of a lump in the throat and re­peated throat clear­ing,”

says Dr Brewer.

So, why does it hap­pen?

DR Thiya­gara­jan ex­plains that while any­one can ex­pe­ri­ence acid re­flux, there are many causes and risk fac­tors. “These in­clude cer­tain foods and drinks, be­ing over­weight, stress and anx­i­ety, smok­ing, medicines such as anti-in­flam­ma­tory painkiller­s, hia­tus her­nia (where your stom­ach pro­trudes up­wards) and be­ing preg­nant,” he clar­i­fies.

What can you do to re­lieve it? THERE are lots of things you can do to find re­lief from the reg­u­lar on­slaught of acid re­flux and mak­ing healthy life­style changes is one of the eas­i­est and most ef­fec­tive op­tions.

“Changes could in­clude eat­ing smaller and more fre­quent meals, not eat­ing foods that trig­ger your symp­toms and try­ing not to eat three or four hours be­fore bed,” says Dr Thiya­gara­jan. He also ad­vises to avoid drink­ing too much al­co­hol, and to lose weight if you are over­weight.

When it comes to diet, it’s a good idea to avoid rich or ‘heavy’ foods, as Dr Brewer says that these take longer to digest, so re­flux be­comes more likely.

Some peo­ple find that acidic fruit juices can trig­ger in­di­ges­tion or heart­burn too.

She says: “In­stead, select bland, non-acidic, eas­ily di­gestible foods, such as cooked white rice, oats, scram­bled eggs, ripe ba­nanas, well-cooked green leafy veg­eta­bles or chicken broth.

“Milk and plain yo­ghurt are es­pe­cially help­ful, as they can soothe ex­cess acid due to the pres­ence of cal­cium lac­tate.

“The pro­bi­otic bac­te­ria in live yo­ghurt can also help to pro­mote good di­ges­tion gen­er­ally and can even in­hibit the growth of bac­te­ria that can ir­ri­tate the stom­ach lin­ing to trig­ger burn­ing sen­sa­tions and in­di­ges­tion.”

If you’re re­liant on that 9am flat white on the com­mute to work, you might want to con­sider switch­ing to break­fast tea in­stead.

“Avoid coffee,” warns Dr Brewer, “as this re­laxes the ring of mus­cle be­tween the stom­ach and oe­soph­a­gus, which can cause or ag­gra­vate heart­burn.”

She also sug­gests ditch­ing the cig­a­rettes, wear­ing loose cloth­ing, avoid­ing as­prin (which can ir­ri­tate the stom­ach) and not bend­ing or ly­ing down im­me­di­ately af­ter eat­ing.

“Acid re­flux can also be linked to stress,” says Dr Thiya­gara­jan, “so

find­ing ways to re­lax can be a good way of re­liev­ing symp­toms.”

Fi­nally, a nat­u­ral sup­ple­ment may also help to stop acid re­flux in its tracks.

With a few sim­ple mea­sures, you should be able to find some much-needed re­lief from acid re­flux, but if your symp­toms per­sist for more than a week – or are re­cur­rent – it’s a good idea to seek med­i­cal ad­vice to find out the cause.

Ex­er­cis­ing with friends: los­ing weight can help al­le­vi­ate symp­toms

Cut down on al­co­holic drinks

Swap your morn­ing coffee for tea

Acid re­flux can be painful

Plain yo­ghurt can sooth ex­cess acid

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