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Heartburn or acid reflux or gastro esophageal reflux (GERD) is caused when the liquid content of the stomach spills into the esophagus (food pipe). This liquid usually contains acid, pepsin (an enzyme required for digestion) and bile. The acid can damage the oesophagus. Heartburn does not usually occur when a person is standing due to gravity. However, when a person is sleeping, acid reflux is more common and can cause sleep disturbances.
There are many causes of heartburn or acid reflux:
1. Overeating or eating heavy meals just before going to sleep. To digest the food, the stomach produces a large amount of acid.
2. Eating sour, acid producing or spicy food like processed foods, tomatoes, oranges or other citrus fruits.
3. Swallowing food too quickly without chewing properly or eating when under stress.
4. Food allergies or combining too many different foods at the same time.
5. Smoking and liver problems can also heartburn
While heartburn or acid reflux is not a major ailment, it causes a lot of discomfort, makes it difficult to swallow and causes cough. Some of the remedies for heartburn are:
1. Instead of 3 large meals, eat a number of small meals, which can be easily digested. Do not eat late in the evening and keep a gap of at least 3 hours between meals, so that the food is properly digested.
2. Eat fresh , raw fruits and vegetables like raw cucumber and apples. Avoid processed foods containing fats, refined sugar, sour fruits and food and other acid producing food. Cucumber juice provides instant relief. Baking soda will neutralize the acid.
3. Doctors may prescribe antacids like Prilosec, but they are expensive and only provide short term relief. However these antacids have long time side effects as they reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach for digesting food.
4. Exercise regularly and ensure that your weight is close to your ideal weight. Try stress reduction techniques and relaxation techniques. If you smoke, quit smoking.
5. Some people find homeopathic remedies like Arsenicum album, Nux vomica useful. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are also useful.
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