Ten things to know about the fire in your belly

Nietzsche, the German philosopher wrote, “The belly is the main reason why man does not mistake himself for a god.”

Heartburn reminds us we are quite human. It should also remind us that ignoring this common symptom can also be dangerous. So what should you know about it?

One – it’s common and expensive.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that, in the U.S., 50 million people suffer from heartburn every month. And the average person with this problem spends $3,355 a year on medication and other treatments.

Two – if you have heartburn you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t blame the restaurant for the fire in your stomach. You’re obviously eating too much and often the wrong foods. This puts too much pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LESM) that normally slams shut and prevents gastric juices from entering the lower end of the food pipe. Large meals trigger excessive amounts of gas and the laws of physics say something has to give.

Three – gastric crutches are not a long-term solution.

Everyone wants a quick fix these days and there are many over-the-counter remedies available such as TUMS, Maalox, Mylanta and Rolaids to name a few antacids. People suffering from heartburn usually get relief from these remedies that decrease the amount of stomach acid. Others may need stronger medication such as Pepcid Ac or Zantac 75. But if you’re constantly taking them, you’re pushing your luck.

Four – alarm bells that indicate trouble.

It’s not good news if you have heartburn twice a week or more, or if it recurs after weeks or months. You may have progressed from garden-variety heartburn to GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). Now it’s time to see the doctor. He or she may prescribe a PPI (proton pump inhibitor), such as Nexium and Prevacid, that stop acid secretion.

Five – GERD can be dangerous.

The constant irritation of stomach juices can result in inflammation of the esophageal lining. Most cases are mild, but if left untreated can cause scarring and narrowing of the lower end of the food tube. Using a flexible, lighted, endoscope, doctors can assess the damage and, if needed, take a biopsy to determine if the changes can lead to cancer, a condition called, Barrett’s esophagus.

Six – so what should smart consumers do?

Realize that just as some people live beyond their economic means and squeeze their wallets too hard, others ask their stomachs to do the impossible. The only good solution is to change lifestyle. It’s shocking that one PPI drug racked up sales of $6.2 billion in 2011, usually due to faulty habits.

Seven – everyone needs a holiday. So do stomachs.

I’m convinced that fasting for a day now and then is a good routine. Or begin by eating smaller, less challenging meals. This means staying away from fatty, spicy and acid foods. So limit the amount of fruit juice, French fries, raw onions, garlic, chicken nuggets, high fat brownies, liquor, wine, coffee and tea to name a few. This routine should shed pounds and put less stress on the lower esophageal muscle. And stop smoking!

Eight – relax.

Avoid tension at the dinner table. Pent up emotions impede the normal workings of the stomach. Loosen your belt after eating. This puts less strain on the esophageal sphincter muscle. Remember that gastric juices, like water, do not flow up hill. So remain upright after a meal and forgo the post-dinner nap.

Nine – When can medication be stopped?

There’s no agreement on this point. Some patients remain on PPIs for long periods of time and have a life-long battle with GERD. But I believe the best solution is to get off medication as soon as possible. And remember if you behave yourself, tincture of time is a great healer.

Ten – keep in mind the risk of heart attack.

It may be difficult during a severe attack of heartburn to know if the symptoms are due to this problem or a coronary attack. If there’s any doubt, call 911.

See www.docgiff.com to see The ‘Ain’t So’s’ About Cholesterol under cardiovascular. For comments, go to info@docgiff.com.

Just Posted

Women of Excellence Awards introduces ‘Women of Excellence in Construction’

Gala will take place June 19th at the Sheraton Red Deer

Check online to make sure you’re registered to vote in upcoming provincial election

Advance polls open Tuesday, April 9th to Saturday, April 13th

UPDATE: Christy Starling has been found

Red Deer RCMP thank the public for their assistance

Red Deer Legion Pipe Band celebrates National Tartan Day

The band is raising money for their trip to Scotland in 2020

Sharon and Bram head to Red Deer on final tour

The duo is celebrating their 40th anniversary farewell tour

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

New Leger polls suggests federal Liberals lagging Conservatives

Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled said they would vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals

Teen girl accused in plot to attack Kamloops school with weapons out on bail

Judge warned the girl she would be back in jail if she threatened to shoot anyone

Oil prices, Alberta election call cloud Stampede chuckwagon auction expectations

The top money bid last year came from Versatile Energy Services, Ltd.

Lacombe hosts 6th Invasive Species Council Conference at LMC

Council looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

Pot industry welcomes decreased edibles tax, but unhappy medical tax remains

Taxes can increase the cost of medical cannabis by as much as 25 per cent

‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court

MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

Multiple MPs have resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet

Carbon tax, oil and gas investment dominate Day 2 of Alberta campaign

NDP pledges more oil and gas processing, UCP slams provincial and federal governments on carbon tax

Most Read