HEALTH

Tobacco, alcohol and caffeine triggers heartburn — Expert

Acid reflux symptoms may include burning chest, bloating, hiccups, nausea

In Summary

• Acid reflux symptoms may include burning chest, bloating, burping, hiccups, nausea or a bitter taste in the mouth.

• The entrance of your stomach has a valve that normally closes once food passes through it. If the valve opens too often or doesn’t close completely, acid produced by your stomach can move up, causing the symptoms of a heartburn.

Avoiding foods that weaken the sphincter is key
Avoiding foods that weaken the sphincter is key
Image: Courtesy: Pinterest

You have just finished a whole plate of ugali, fish, topped it off with a glass of mango or pineapple juice and went to play with your nieces and nephews.

All of a sudden you feel a burning sensation in your chest.

As many people would call it, “Heartburn”. You go ahead and gulp up a cold glass of milk, unaware, you are making the situation worse.

According to Dr Peter Mwangi, a Nairobi-based doctor, heartburns have been in existence throughout the ages, but there has been a spike recently mostly due to poor lifestyle diseases.

“When the symptoms of heartburn become more regular and intense, like twice or thrice a week, then one might be suffering from an acid reflux disease,” he told the Star.

However, he noted the need for one to check with a professional doctor to find out if the chest pains that accompany it are a sign of acid reflux or heart disease.

“When it comes to acid reflux, chest pains can be triggered by eating acid-rich foods, carbonated drinks or eating fatty foods. However some medications for high blood pressure, asthma, birth control or depression can also trigger the symptoms,” he said.

Drugs act as relaxants; over use of them may damage your sphincter, causing it to relax
Drugs act as relaxants; over use of them may damage your sphincter, causing it to relax
Image: Courtesy: Pinterest

Mwangi also noted that people who drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or take caffeinated drinks like coffee are also likely to experience heartburns once in a while.

“The entrance of your stomach has a valve which normally closes once food passes through it. If the valve opens too often or doesn’t close completely, acid produced by your stomach can move up, causing the symptoms of heartburn,” he said.

Often accompanied by symptoms of the burning chest, bloating, burping, hiccups, nausea or a bitter taste in the mouth, Mwangi said that one should be worried if the prolonged heartburns are not treated with time, scarring my occur and lead to oesophagus cancer.

“Things like caffeine, tobacco and coffee weaken the valve, making it not close properly. Once the acid finds its way out through the valve, there might be constant scarring of the food pipelining, which without early treatment or surgery can be cancer,” he said.

He advised people to drink water which offers a sense of relief as drinking milk and dairy products are high in fat and can make the heartburn worse.

“Once a doctor prescribes your antacid or anti-blocking medication, they work by neutralising the acid in your stomach and also provide relief. However, be keen on making lifestyle changes, to improve the valve function. If that doesn’t work, corrective surgery is also an option.” Mwangi said.

He also said that fatty and fried foods make it hard for the stomach to digest. This then calls for more acid production by the stomach and might prevent the valve from fully closing.

 “The body has trouble digesting saturated fats, and undigested, they can be sent to the colon hence triggering your diarrhoea if not both,” Mwangi said.

A pregnant woman
A pregnant woman
Image: FILE

Acid reflux also increases in pregnancy, due to hormonal changes and the growing baby who presses against the mother’s stomach.

“It is normal and some mothers may experience mild to serious symptoms of heartburns. A doctor should prescribe the anti-acids and the mother should also make the dietary and lifestyle changes like avoiding foods that trigger or worsen the situation,” he said.

Edited by D Tarus