This week sees the launch of Ireland’s inaugural Heartburn Awareness Week, highlighting an ailment that affects 51% of the population. The awareness week, launched by Operation Transformation’s Dr Ciara Kelly and celebrity stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick, is an initiative to encourage heartburn sufferers to consult with their local pharmacist on their symptoms. Currently 46% of heartburn sufferers have not discussed their symptoms with a health care practitioner.
Heartburn is caused by the reflux or back flow of gastric acid from the stomach into the oesophagus. It occurs when the lower oeshpageal sphincter does not close tightly, allowing acid to escape out of the stomach into the oesophagus. Unlike the stomach, the oesophagus does not have a protective lining so is sensitive to the acid which actually burns the walls of the oesophagus, causing that painful feeling.
Typical heartburn symptoms include a painful, burning feeling behind the breastbone which may be accompanied by an acidic taste in the back of the throat. According to the Heartburn Awareness Week survey 53% of people feel that heartburn has a negative impact on their lifestyle, with 31% disclosing that heartburn disturbs their sleep and 24% having to limit their food choices.
Dr Ciara Kelly MD explains: “Heartburn is generally not a cause for major concern as most of us experience it at some point in our lives. However, frequent heartburn which occurs two or more times a week should not be taken lightly.
“If you are suffering from heartburn twice a week or more, my recommendation is to discuss your symptoms with your local pharmacist or GP to ensure you are benefitting from the appropriate treatment.”
Her top tips?
- Try to maintain a healthy weight with a BMI below 25
- Stop smoking
- Keep your alcohol intake within recommended limits (17 units for a man, 11 units for a woman per week, or less!)
- Don’t eat late at night before you’re about to lie down
- Avoid hot spicy foods with lots of chilli
- Avoid high acid foods like onions, garlic, tomatoes and citrus fruits
- Reduce your tea and coffee intake
- Listen to your tummy – If something upsets it, cut it out!