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WALES: Heartburn can be cured for most sufferers; EAT WELL... STAY WELL.

Byline: BY KAREN JOHNSON Medical Nutritionist

WE have all experienced heartburn indigestion from time to time, but some people suffer with it every day and it doesn't matter what treatments they take, it just will not go away.

Before you reach for the antacids, look at what you are eating, because in most cases heartburn has a huge dietary influence and can be prevented by simple changes in the diet.

Last month I saw a man in my clinic who had severe heartburn lasting for several hours every day.

He woke up with heartburn and it persisted until he went to sleep. Over the counter remedies and prescription medication from his doctor lessened the severity, but never took it away completely. This is because his heartburn was caused by an intolerance to something he was regularly eating and drinking that was irritating the gastric lining and over-producing acid. He would only get relief when he withdrew or limited certain foods from his diet. Once we had withdrawn the commonly known culprits, within a few days his heartburn had gone. Over the past month he has been free from heartburn for the first time in twelve years.

You develop heartburn indigestion because your stomach produces too much acid and the symptoms are burning sensation and pain from the middle of the chest to the throat.

Hydrochloric acid is produced normally by the gastric lining and it aids digestion and helps with the absorption of iron and calcium, amongst other important roles. When the stomach produces too much acid it will flow back or reflux into the oesophagus, (the food pipe), where there is very delicate tissue and the gastric acid will burn it causing pain and inflammation known as gastritis. If the stomach continues to over-produce acid you are at high risk of developing ulcers and if an ulcer bleeds it is a life threatening condition.

There are many reasons why some people produce too much acid. It is well recognised that the most common cause is a food intolerance. Others include eating too quickly, overeating, eating too many spicy foods and not eating regular meals. Also pregnancy and being overweight, where there is pressure from the extra weight pushing the stomach upwards which forces the gastric contents to spill out.

Stress, smoking cigarettes, alcohol and some drugs like anti-inflammatory pain killers are common culprits too. Gastrointestinal problems the low that may cause heartburn include having gall stones, bowel conditions and a hiatus hernia.

In the case of an intolerance avoiding the culprit food and drink is the only way to prevent the stomach from over producing acid. It is not always necessary to completely withdraw the culprit, just cutting down often works - a great compromise if your favourite foods are causing problems. This is why I foll all my patients after their consultation to advise on reintroducing the culprits in specific amounts to test the tolerance.

I frequently see people whose heartburn accompanies other conditions like asthma, bowel or skin complaints that are caused or exacerbated by a food intolerance. But heartburn is usually a combination of an intolerance, irregular meals, stress and an unbalanced diet that is too rich in fat and sugar. Therefore if you have frequent unpleasant burning discomfort don't be a sufferer, when a simple dietary revamp is usually the answer.

For more details of Karen's clinics at Colwyn Bay, Abergele and on Anglesey, visit www.karenjohnson.org.uk or call her on 0800 028 4744

Top Tip

Half a teaspoon of cold pressed honey every day is thought to destroy bacteria's in the stomach as it has antibacterial properties and it also protects the lining from irritant foods too

HEARTBURN... THE FACTS

If you have black stools or are vomiting blood you may have a bleeding ulcer and must see a doctor immediately

Always consult your doctor, especially if heartburn is accompanied by weight loss, radiating pain, vomiting or diarrhoea

Heartburn can be caused by smoking

When you have heartburn sleep slightly upright

A gastric scope and other investigations will rule out any more serious causes such as cancer, pancreatitis, gall stones and heart disease

Don't always assume if you have pain in the chest that you have heartburn. It may be cardiac (heart) pain, especially if it is accompanied by sweating or shortness of breath.

Tips include eating more slowly, don't eat a meal before going to bed, avoid stress, cut down on alcohol and caffeine drinks
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2006
Words:743
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