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7 useful ways to prevent Heartburn

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



Do you experience heartburn (pain in the centre of your chest), frequent excessive belching, regurgitation (when food you have swallowed returns to your mouth minutes to hours after eating)? Or do you have frequent episodes of pneumonia, hoarse voice or aspiration (when food passes into your lungs instead of your oesophagus)?



These symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are so common that 20-40% of people have such symptoms at least once in their lives. And this number is thought to be even more.
The cause of GERD is one of three things – abnormal or delayed movement of food in the oesophagus, abnormal weakening of the valve at the junction between the oesophagus and the stomach, and delayed movement of food out of the stomach. Most often, antacids popularly known as Gestid or Mistmag are used to make these symptoms go away. But there are some little details which when taken care of, can reduce the episodes to the barest minimum. They are also found to be helpful in pregnant women with GERD symptoms.


1) Losing weight is the first step if you are overweight as there is a proven link between obesity and GERD. Being overweight may alter the normal structure of the valve between the stomach and oesophagus and affect normal movement, similar to how obesity affects the normal clotting pattern of the blood, and causes hypertension and liver disease


2) Avoid eating large meals. This is thought to cause reflux when the stomach is filled beyond its normal capacity


3) Allow some time, like 3 hours before lying down after a meal. This would give your meal some time to be digested and move further along in the digestive tract, away from the oesophagus


4) Make the head of your bed higher than the foot by about 8 inches to reduce the chance of food moving back up to the mouth


5) Avoid bending or stooping forward especially when pregnant as the baby’s position in the abdomen puts enough pressure on the stomach already, causing a reduced capacity and a higher chance of reflux


6) Avoid foods like chocolates, tomatoes, citrus juice (for example, oranges, lemons), peppermints, coffee as these cause the oesophageal-stomach valve to relax . Though temporarily, this relaxation can cause a backflow of stomach content


7) Avoid alcohol as it also relaxes the valve and causes reflux of food that has already passed into the stomach. Mixed with stomach acid and/or bile from the first part of the intestine, this burns the oesophagus and causes the painful sensation experienced.


GERD is a very common condition, the tips above are useful as lifestyle changes to manage the disease and stall worsening symptoms. In really bad instances, they may be combined with medication.


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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo