Heartburn • What helps & home remedies

Heartburn is a common disease: up to 20 percent of all Germans sometimes suffer from the burning, painful feeling that rises from the stomach. What helps against heartburn and which home remedies are possible.

Characteristic of heartburn is a sharp, rising pain in the chest area. Accompanying him, especially shortly after eating, often acid or bitter regurgitation (reflux). Acidic gastric juice flows back into the esophagus.

At a glance:

This helps against heartburn

An effective treatment of heartburn is possible and especially necessary in the chronic form. Otherwise, the tissue of the esophagus can be attacked in the long term, possibly leading to tissue changes. The following measures can be taken:

  • Avoid foods that are intolerable and cause heartburn

  • Avoid late meals

  • Raise the back section in bed and sleep with your upper body elevated

  • Reduce excess weight

  • Quit smoking

  • reduced alcohol consumption

  • Avoid chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks

Home remedies for heartburn

If you only suffer from heartburn from time to time, for example after a particularly fatty meal, you can alleviate the unpleasant burning sensation with home remedies. For example, anyone who is prone to heartburn should drink food and drink plenty of fluids afterwards to dilute the stomach acid. It is important to choose the right liquid. Wine or sparkling wine, juices, fruit teas or coffee are not suitable – all these drinks are acidic and would not relieve the stomach. In the past, milk was often recommended for mild heartburn, but it is now thought that milk stimulates the stomach to produce more stomach acid.

Still water or mild herbal teas (fennel, anise, chamomile) in small sips can often alleviate the heartburn well, other home remedies such as baking soda (soda) or a grated apple can be tried. However, if the heartburn persists, you should definitely see a doctor.

More home remedies for heartburn can be found here.

Medications for heartburn

If the heartburn arises from the reflux disease, the doctor can prescribe medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI) such as esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, rabeprazole or H2-receptor antagonists (H2-RA). In some cases, antacids can also help. This group of active ingredients binds the excess stomach acid and raises the pH of the stomach. Antacids are available over the counter in the pharmacy, but should only be taken temporarily.

When does heartburn have to be operated on?

Anti-reflux surgery may be required if all available medications are insufficient to prevent gastric acid reflux. Doctors consider surgical therapy especially when the suffering of those affected is high and medication does not work enough to alleviate it.

Psychotherapy and relaxation

Digestive problems and heartburn can also arise from a disturbed interplay of body and psyche. Experience shows that psychosomatic indigestion often occurs when those affected are in stressful life situations.

If the stress is “eaten up”, the stomach cramps and can react with an increased production of stomach acid. This can lead to heartburn. Psychotherapy can help those affected to better understand the relationships and learn to counteract them effectively in crisis situations. Relaxation techniques can also help.

Causes and risk factors for heartburn

The cause of acidic gastric juice flowing back into the esophagus and causing heartburn can be an overproduction of stomach acid. Often there is also a disturbed gastrointestinal movement behind the symptoms. In this case, the contents of the stomach are insufficiently processed and transported on. This can result in pressure on the stomach and sphincter (ring-shaped esophageal sphincter between the stomach and esophagus). If this muscle no longer closes properly, it gets into the esophagus more often than normal acidic porridge and can cause an uncomfortable burning sensation. Then reflux disease is the cause of the heartburn.

Risk factors are:

  • Essen: too greasy, difficult to digest, too acidic or stimulating acid production
  • Overweight
  • Nicotine and alcohol
  • pregnancy
  • Medication: for example antidepressants, caffeinated drugs, estrogens
  • Stress
  • Increasing age
  • Pre-existing illness: for example gastritis, irritable stomach, stomach ulcer and stomach cancer

Hereditary factors are rarely the reason for heartburn. So can the gastric occlusion be inadequate due to genetic muscle weakness. The protective mechanisms in the cells of the esophagus can also react more sensitively to gastric acid due to a genetic disposition or show an excessive inflammatory reaction after contact with gastric acid.

What does heartburn express?

Typical symptoms of heartburn are:

  • acid regurgitation
  • Backflow of acidic gastric juice into the mouth
  • Reflux when bending the upper body (bending down)
  • Backflow while lying down, for example in bed
  • burning pain behind the breastbone

Heartburn, acid regurgitation or pain when swallowing are classic complaints with reflux. However, experts estimate that only about 20 percent of patients with gastric juice flowing back complain about it.

Other possible symptoms of reflux:

  • Hoarseness, cough
  • Pain like a stomach ulcer
  • nocturnal coughing fits
  • asthma-like symptoms
  • cramping and pressing pain behind the breastbone
  • Pain can even radiate to the shoulders or lower abdomen

In addition, swallowing disorders, bleeding, weight loss or pain radiating to the back can develop over time. These warning signs should be taken seriously. In such cases, one should go to the doctor to clarify the causes and to discuss appropriate treatment.

Examinations for diagnosis of heartburn

The doctor will first carry out a basic examination. He will ask some questions about the exact complaints surrounding heartburn and personal medical history.

When inquiring about the medical history (medical history), the following information is particularly important for the doctor:

  • since when and how often heartburn occurs

  • whether the symptoms are observed immediately after eating or at night

  • what eating and living habits exist

  • whether and in what quantities alcohol, nicotine and coffee are consumed

  • what medication you take regularly

  • what other symptoms were observed

Then the physical examination takes place. The doctor looks down her throat. In this way he can see whether the tongue is coated and the throat is red. Blood values ​​provide information about whether there is inflammation.

Light diet: Recipes & tips for gastrointestinal problems

In addition, the doctor will rule out other diseases that cause similar symptoms through examinations and inquiries. Other tests that may be considered include:

Consequences of heartburn

The permanent feeling of a constricted throat, difficulty swallowing, sleep disorders and hoarseness affect the quality of life and can restrict everyday life. But the rising acidic gastric juice permanently damages the esophagus, neck, teeth, oral cavity and even the respiratory organs. Therefore, if you suffer from regular or persistent heartburn, you should see a doctor to clarify the causes and initiate treatment.

The following diseases can arise from permanent heartburn:

To prevent consequential damage, people with heartburn should pay special attention to their oral care. Careful dental and oral care also helps fight the bad breath that often occurs in heartburn.

Tips to Prevent Heartburn

The following tips can prevent the most common triggers and causes of heartburn:

  • Right nutrition: The way we eat and also high body weight can trigger heartburn. Sumptuous meals, especially fatty, sweet, spicy and difficult to digest foods, can trigger an increased acid production in the stomach. We therefore recommend several small meals instead of a few sumptuous ones. Light, healthy food such as vegetables or fish is well suited to prevent heartburn. On the other hand, very sweet, spicy, fatty and difficult to digest dishes should only be eaten rarely.

  • Drink gently: Mineral water with little or no carbon dioxide and tea is suitable as a thirst quencher. Only drink carbonated and acidic drinks such as coffee and alcohol in moderation and for a change. An excess can cause heartburn.

  • Enjoy consciously: Eat slowly and chew every bite thoroughly. Taking a walk helps to stimulate gastric emptying and prevent heartburn. On the other hand, digestive sleep or schnapps are disadvantageous: they slow down digestion and promote acid regurgitation.

  • Reduce cigarettes, alcohol, coffee: Coffee, cigarettes and alcohol are typical triggers of heartburn. Coffee irritates the stomach and the caffeine it contains – like alcohol and nicotine – affects the function of the circular muscle between the esophagus and stomach. White wine, sparkling wine and beer in particular also provide an extra portion of acid, which can aggravate the symptoms especially for people who are prone to heartburn.

  • Relaxation: Only when stress is physically noticeable is it really “noticed”. Many people then tend to have increased heartburn. So build peace islands into everyday life and exercise in serenity – we don’t have much influence on many stress factors, but the trouble in the office or the argument with your partner doesn’t always have to cause constant stress. Small rituals such as a walk or relaxation techniques such as yoga or autogenic training help to reduce stress.

  • Restful sleep: Heartburn often occurs at night. On the other hand, it helps to sleep with the head and upper body slightly elevated. This prevents gastric acid from flowing back. A sleeping position on the left side also reduces the pressure on the stomach. Do not eat too late in the evening – this way the stomach can digest the meal before going to bed. It is ideal if the stomach has three to five hours to do this.

  • Casual clothing: Jeans that are too tight or a belt that is too tight create additional pressure on the stomach area and promote acid regurgitation. Choose loose and casual clothing that you can breathe comfortably.

  • Healthy weight: Extra pounds increase the pressure on the stomach so that the sphincter no longer seals properly. Exercise helps to maintain normal weight or reduce excess weight. This also reduces the pressure on the gastric gatekeeper.

  • Check medication: Some medications such as asthma, pain or cardiovascular drugs can cause heartburn. If you suspect heartburn as a side effect, consult your pharmacist or doctor.

Important: If symptoms persist for more than two weeks despite reducing stress and following the tips, a doctor should be consulted to treat the heartburn. In the long term, gastric acid reflux damages the lining of the esophagus, the oral cavity and teeth and increases the risk of secondary diseases.