Have you ever felt a burning sensation that runs up from your chest area and into your throat? It starts off feeling like an annoyance but in some cases, it becomes persistent, turning into a disease.
Jim Palmer, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, had chronicled about his battle with heartburn. “I had frequent and persistent heartburn for many years during my baseball career. I thought it was normal. I tried changing my eating habits in an effort to allow three hours between eating and going to bed. None of these efforts solved the problem. I have found that more and more people are identifying their own experiences with frequent and persistent heartburn as reflux disease,” he had chronicled. Today, at 74 he is considered one of the famous spokespersons, in addition to former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, who’s been helping in increasing awareness about gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — which in layman term means ‘acidity’.
Hyperacidity is a common symptom that is synonymous with burning pain in the upper abdomen and or chest, usually secondary to bacterial infection, intake of certain drugs, lifestyle habits such as alcohol consumption and smoking. And it doesn’t only affect older people — even active, healthy teens can suffer from acidity, explain experts.
Dr G.V. Rao, Director, Chief of Surgical Gastroenterology, Transplantation Services and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, explains it further. “Eating large amounts of food and inadequate chewing of food causes upper abdominal fullness, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. When one has acidity, one experiences a burning sensation under the breastbone, accompanied by reflux of bitter contents. It usually worsens on bending forward or lying down,” says Dr Rao.
What causes acidity?
According to Dr Nitesh Pratap, Consultant Gastroenterologist, KIMS Hospitals, there are multiple causes of acidity, including consuming spicy food, eating a heavy meal and eating citric foods. “In fact, chocolates can also cause acidity. And smoking and alcohol intake can worsen the symptoms. Stomach infections with H. pylori, pain medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin and high levels of stress/anxiety can also trigger acidity,” adds Dr Pratap.
Another commonly ignored aspect that induces acidity in most people is improper timing and spacing between meals during the day. According to Dr Rao, eating large quantities of food late in the night and immediately retiring to bed can also aggravate symptoms.
How can you treat the disease?
The treatment of acidity includes lifestyle modification as well as medication. “Lifestyle modification includes eating small frequent meals, avoiding spicy food, excess tea and coffee,” advises Dr Pratap.
The doctor also adds that antacids, proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics for H. pylori, as per medical advice are some of the medications used to treat acidity.
In some cases, people take antacids but still do not respond to it. In such cases, the treating doctor will evaluate for diseases causing acidity. “These tests include blood test and, if required, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy in which a flexible scope is passed into the stomach to look for the cause of acidity. If a person with acidity has significant loss of weight, loss of appetite, vomiting or black-coloured stool, he should consult the specialist at the earliest,” the doctor adds.