The Milk Myth

Milk is not a remedy for heartburn. The soothing effect felt when drinking milk is deceiving- once in the stomach, milk's fat, calcium, and protein cause increased acid secretion and worsened heartburn. Minis are also often credited with alleviating heartburn, but they don't Mint actually relaxes the LES, making heartburn more likely.

Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. (Some of the symptoms, however, are similar to those of a heart attack or heart disease.) It is an irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. With gravity's help, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, keeps stomach acid in the stomach. The LES is located where the esophagus meets the stomach-below the rib cage and slightly left of center. Normally it opens to allow food into the stomach or to permit belching; then it closes again. But if the LES opens too often or too far, stomach acid can reflux, or seep, into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation.

Occasional heartburn isn't dangerous, but chronic heartburn can indicate serious problems. Heartburn is a daily occurrence for 10 percent of Americans and 50 percent of pregnant women. It's an occasional nuisance for another 30 percent of the population.

Causes

The basic cause of heartburn is an underactive LES that doesn't tighten as it should. Two excesses often contribute: too much food in the stomach (overeating) or too much pressure on the stomach (frequently from obesity or pregnancy). Certain foods commonly relax the LES, including tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and peppermint. Dishes high in fats and oils (animal or vegetable) often lead to heartburn, as do certain medications, especially some antibiotics and aspirin. Stress, which strains the nerves controlling the EES, can cause heart-hum. And smoking, which relaxes the LES and stimulates stomach acid, is a major contributor.

Diagnostic and Test Procedures

Your description of your symptoms may be all a doctor requires, but sometimes additional procedures are necessary. The esophagus can be viewed through an endoscope, a long, thin, flex-He tube inserted through the mouth, or by x-ray.

To determine if your heart is the cause of your symptoms, an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording of the heart's electrical activity, may be taken.

Treatment

Most physicians advocate antacids for occasional heartburn. Alternative practitioners rely on herbal remedies to reduce acid and relaxation therapies to lessen stress.

Conventional Medicine

The primary objective is to identify the cause of the heartburn, so it can be avoided in the future. Over-the-counter antacids or bismuth subsalicy-late is commonly prescribed to neutralize stomach acid. If antacids don't quell the symptoms, your doctor may prescribe cimetidine, ranitidine, or omeprazole to reduce the stomach's production of acid, or cisapride or metoclopramide to make the stomach empty itself faster. When all else fails, surgery may be required to repair the EES, but this is relatively rare.

Alternative Choices

Chinese Herbs

Taken once or twice, a tea made from 10 grams orange peel, 4 slices fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale), 10 grams poria (Poria cocos), 10 grams agastache (Agastache rugosa), and 3 grams licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) may alleviate heartburn. If it doesn't, call your physician. This mixture should not be taken daily.

Herbal Therapies

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) tea can diminish heartburn quickly, and chamomile (Matricaria recutita) tea's calming effects are especially helpful for stress-related heartburn.

Homeopathy

Specific heartburn symptoms often respond well to homeopathic remedies. The dosage is 6c, taken every 15 minutes; repeat up to three times, then repeat the series once if needed. After eating spicy foods, take Nux vomica; after rich foods take Carbo vegetabilis; and for burning pain, take Arsenicum album.

Prevention

Heartburn is often preventable. The keys are maintaining a reasonable weight, avoiding things that cause stomach acid to reflux into your esophagus, getting adequate rest and exercise, and minimizing stress.

If you must lie down after eating, lie on your left side; your stomach is lower than your esophagus in this position.

Source :
Alternative Medicine

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