The number of people (Of all ages) experiencing the frequent episodes of heartburn/acidity worldwide is very high. Heartburn/acidity is a burning sensation behind the breast bone. Although it is not a life-threatening problem, it can lead to, complications, such as inflammation, ulceration, etc., in the food-pipe (Oesophagus) and stomach. It can lead to long term discomfort and also affects the quality of life.
The acidity is commonly referred to as heartburn, it has nothing to do with our Heart. It is a symptom/ Burning sensation due to the inflammation/irritation of the Oesophagus (Food-pipe). It is developed when the acid or digestive juices rise up into the food-pipe.
Though it can be associated with some diseases or medication, the most common culprit behind this is the adoption of wrong diet and lifestyle habits. If we one can correct the improper diet and lifestyle habits, he/she can overcome this chronic condition and improve the quality of life. Let us see about this problem in detail,
DIET AND LIFESTYLE RELATED CAUSES OF ACIDITY/HEARTBURN
- Overeating (Eating food in the large quantity at one time):
When one eats food in large quantity, the stomach remains distended, and the sphincter at the junction of food pipe and stomach does not close properly. It allows the digestive juices and stomach acid to rise up back into the food pipe, causing symptoms of acidity.
Excess belly fat in an obese person puts a significant pressure over the stomach, which relaxes the sphincter located between food pipe and stomach. It allows the stomach acid to rise in the food pipe, causing symptoms of acidity/gastritis.
- Lying down or sleeping immediately after having food.
After eating food, our stomach produces digestive juices and acid to digest that food. If we lie down immediately after a meal, it becomes easier for the stomach acid and digestive juices to travel into the food pipe (As there is no effect of gravity) causing inflammation (Gastritis/acidity)
- Less than sufficient water intake.
Water is necessary for the production of mucus in the digestive tract. The mucus forms a protective layer over the inner walls of the stomach and food pipe, which protects against the inflammation from excess acid or digestive juice secretion. Due to chronic dehydration, there is insufficient production of mucus which makes the food pipe and stomach vulnerable to the inflammation from digestive juices, increasing the risk of gastritis/acidity.
- Excess consumption of Caffeine/ carbonated beverages.
- Excess alcohol intake:
- Alcohol can directly irritate the tissues of the oesophagus (Food-pipe).
- It stimulates and increases the production of acids in the stomach.
- It also relaxes the sphincter at the junction of the stomach and food pipe, which allows the acid and digestive juice from the stomach to rise u in the food-pipe, creating an inflammation.
By all these three mechanisms mentioned above, excess alcohol consumption can increase the risk of suffering from heartburn or acidity.
Smoking increases the production of digestive acid the stomach. At the same time, it also relaxes the sphincter between food pipe and stomach, allowing the acid to rise up into the food pipe, causing symptoms of acidity/heartburn.
Our saliva has a neutralizing effect on this acid. Excess smoking reduces the production of saliva, which reduces the protective effect.
- Certain Medications. (E.g. Medications for fever or Painkillers, etc.)
- Eating at a rough time or frequent skipping of meals.
- Low fibre intake.
- Excess salt intake.
- Chronic stress.
- Chronic stress releases a particular chemical (Steroids) in the body, which triggers the excess acid production from the stomach.
- Chronic stress decreases the production of chemicals (prostaglandins) necessary to form a cover on the walls of the stomach and food-pipe. It protects against the erosive actions of acid.
- It also relaxes the sphincter between the junction of food -pipe and stomach, which allows the acid to rise in the food pipe and cause symptoms of acidity.
The effects mentioned above of stress on our body contributes to the increased risk of heartburn/acidity.
- Not taking sufficient sleep.
Lack of sufficient sleep is associated with dysfunction of the sphincter between food-pipe and stomach. Which allows the stomach acid to rise above into the food pipe, causing acid reflux (Acidity).
Lack of sufficient sleep also increases the production of acid by the stomach.
- A sedentary lifestyle with a lack of sufficient exercise or physical activity.
A sedentary lifestyle with a lack of sufficient physical activity increases the chances of weight gain and obesity, which in itself is a risk factor for acidy or heartburn.
- Eating rapidly and when under stress/anxious
- Frequent and excess consumption of certain types of foods, such as:
- Spicy foods (Pickles, Chutney, food made with extra spices/red chilli)
- Fermented food
- Citrus fruits (Orange, Plum, sweet lemon)
- Onion and Garlic
- Deep-fried foods (French fries, Vada, Samosa, etc.)
- Processed fast food like Pizza, burger (Which has high fat, refined sugar and salt content).
- Non-vegetarian food
(These kinds of foods increase the production of acid in the stomach. It also causes the relaxation of the sphincter at the junction of food pipe and stomach, allowing the acid from the stomach to rise up in the food pipe, causing acidity or heartburn.)
TIPS TO PREVENT FREQUENT ACIDITY/HEARTBURN
- Be physically active, do regular exercise and walk.
- Lose weight
- Eat a healthy diet, such as:
- Less spicy
- High in fibre content
- Fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, etc.
- Avoid excess intake of Processed fast food.
- Avoid excess consumption of pickles, chutneys, sauces and other spicy foodstuffs in the meal.
- Limit the consumption of onion and Garlic in the food.
- Avoid excess consumption of deep-fried outside food.
- Drink sufficient amount of water.
- Reduce the consumption of Caffeine and carbonated drinks.
- Cut down on/If possible, avoid the consumption of Alcohol.
- Cut down on smoking.
- Try to overcome chronic stress (Through meditation, yoga, etc.)
- Consult your doctor if any medication is causing the acidity/heartburn.
- Do not skip meals, eat at a regular interval (Small frequent meals).
- Avoid overeating/binge eating.
- Limit the consumption of Non-vegetarian food.
- Reduce the amount of salt in the diet.
- Eat slowly and chew food properly.
- Take sufficient sleep.
- Have food at least 1 hour before sleeping.
- Avoid sleeping immediately after having food. If one has to, due to ill health, then lie down in an inclined position
https://images.healthline.com/health/gerd/stress#:~:text=Stress can also deplete the,lead to increased acid reflux.