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What is heartburn and can it be treated naturally?

Christmas tends to be the season of overindulgence for many of us. With so much tasty food and drink on offer, it can be hard to say no to another mince pie. Unfortunately this overindulgence can play havoc with our digestive system and stokes the flames of heartburn. 

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, where stomach acid travels up the oesophagus. Some reflux is normal and doesn’t cause any symptoms but when it happens too often, the inside of the oesophagus becomes irritated. 

The symptoms are familiar to many of us: an unpleasant burning sensation in the middle of the chest, as well as a sour taste in the mouth. 

The cause of heartburn and acid reflux isn’t actually known but certain foods such as coffee, alcohol and spicy foods have been known to trigger it. Overeating and drinking too much alcohol are two of the main triggers. Others include stress or anxiety, smoking and some medications like anti-inflammatory painkillers. 

How do you treat it?

When heartburn does hit, the temptation is often to lie down but this often worsens the symptoms. A normal antacid should fix the problem. But what do you do when heartburn hits and all the shops are closed? 

One potential solution is to keep some chewing gum around the house. Some studies have shown that chewing gum can reduce acidity in the oesophagus as well as increase saliva formation which can help clear the acid out of the oesophagus too! Avoiding tight clothes will relieve pressure on the abdomen, easing some of the symptoms. 

Another avenue of treatment is eating some alkaline-based foods. A spoonful of mustard or baking soda can neutralise the acid in your stomach and ease the symptoms. Chamomile and ginger tea have also been mooted as calming remedies for the stomach.

Another thing you can try is raising one end of your bed! Lifting it by 10 – 20cm ensures that your head and stomach is above your waist and the acid can’t travel up your throat. It’s also recommended not to eat three hours before going to bed, so try to avoid late night snacks. 

While you might not be able to totally avoid heartburn this Christmas, you should now be equipped to tackle it using some natural methods in the comfort of your own home.  

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