5 simple things you can do to help reduce heartburn
Heartburn discomfort can be distressing, especially if it's a frequent occurrence. The kids, the school run and having to juggle everything else means that life can be made all the more difficult with heartburn lingering in the background. And, it's on the increase in Ireland having doubled amongst sufferers of the condition since 2016. This is according to new research to launch Heartburn Awareness Week, taking place from now until 14th of October.
What causes it?
The unpleasant symptoms of burning pain in the chest and throat, unpleasant taste, bloating, feeling sick or bad breath are occurring daily or at least twice a week for 30% of sufferers. But exactly what triggers it? Heartburn occurs when gastric acid flows back from the stomach into the oesophagus when the lower oesophageal sphincter does not close tightly. Unlike the stomach, the oesophagus does not have a protective lining and is sensitive to acid which burns its walls, causing that painful feeling. Any changes to the diet, whether it is consuming unhealthy foods, eating more or eating less food, can affect digestion and in turn, contribute to heartburn and its symptoms. When it comes to what triggers heartburn it’s no surprise that eating rich or spicy food was found to be the biggest culprit for half of suffers (49%). However, stress was found to be the second biggest contributor to the condition, with 34% of those surveyed stating stress as a factor that can set off their heartburn.
Seven in 10 adults surveyed claimed that their diet is affected when experiencing stress, something particularly prevalent in 78% of women. To help reduce stress and in turn the impact it has on our digestive system making heartburn less frequent, stress management expert Sarah offers the following five tips:
When feeling stressed or under pressure, breathing is something that can be affected and creates even more tension. Deep or rhythmic breathing is an effective way to promote a feeling of calm when feeling a little under pressure. If you are up against a deadline at work and feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths to help manage your anxiety. It is important to take time out to relax and enjoy mealtimes as this can help reduce digestive symptoms of bloating, gas, stomach cramps and heartburn.
Food can be the last thing on your mind when going through a stressful period and you may find yourself eating at your desk, on the go or skipping meals altogether. Try not to miss meal times as delaying meals when you’re stressed will lead to energy crashes. Bananas are said to help combat stress as they are full of potassium. Other happy foods include avocados, aubergines, pineapples, tomatoes and walnuts. Stress can also result in poor dietary decisions – you may find yourself reaching for something convenient or comforting rather than nourishing. Eating the wrong food and over-eating can put too much stress on your body and trigger heartburn.
When you know a stressful period is coming up then plan in advance to get meals and snacks ready, so you always have healthy food ready to be eaten. Creativity also activates the right side of your brain helping to distract from stressful thoughts and feelings. Using colourful, vibrant or decorative food in your meals is appealing not just to your tummy, but your eyes too!
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools you can use to increase your happiness, energy levels and wellbeing and in turn decrease your stress. We use exercise to manage our weight and physical health, but rarely do we focus as much on the role exercise can play in transforming our mental wellbeing. Get up from your desk and go for a twenty-minute walk during your lunch break. This not only aids digestion after meals but will have a great impact on your overall stress levels. Reduced stress levels and better digestion mean you are less likely to be affected by heartburn or acid reflux.
Improving the quantity and quality of your sleep can be one of the most productive ways to decrease stress, while in turn helping to avoid the nasty symptoms of heartburn. Most people require getting somewhere between six to eight hours of sleep per night and to achieve this a good bedtime routine and a little discipline is needed. A good tip to fall asleep is to ensure the bedroom is cool and dark and avoid looking at any mobile devices around 30-60 minutes before going to sleep – this helps the mind to begin the process of winding down.