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Dealing With Heartburn

Monday April 15 2013    |     Views: 2796    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

Having a good sleep is the most important thing I always look forward to every night especially after a very rough and busy day. Tonight will definitely be no exception, I thought to myself. Today has been one of such busy days I experience on the very busy streets of Lagos. While seated in a BRT bus that was stuck in the horrible Iyana-Ipaja traffic, I recounted the events of the day in my mind. My alarm had woken me up by 4:15am and I went around the house doing the necessary things from my prayers to getting prepared to set out. Driving is not the everyday thing I enjoy doing on the streets of Lagos and today, I decided to allow the car to enjoy the pleasure of staying at home and getting some rest.
I set out at 5:30am to the Island to see some clients and also to attend to some unfinished personal business which I had left hanging for a while. Later on I left the island and headed back to the mainland to attend to some patients in one of the hospitals I consult for. And by the time I was through for the day, I knew my whole body craved seriously for nothing else but a sound sleep.
I was jostled out of my thoughts by the young man sitting next to me who needed to get down and it was not until then that I realised that I was already at the bus stop where I had to disembark from the bus. I headed straight for home, took a cold shower, grabbed something to eat and quickly jumped into bed hoping to drift off to sleep any moment.
The sound from my phone woke me up some minutes to 12am. With sleepy eyes, I checked who the caller was and discovered it was Yetunde, my neighbour and friend who works with one of the big pharmaceutical companies as a sales executive.  Yetunde is a very hardworking young lady whose job requires her to go as far as Badagry, one of the towns on the outskirts of Lagos and thus returns home very late at night.
I picked up the phone and greeted her in the usual manner I always did. “Yetty mama, how you dey,” I asked. Before I could go any further, I heard her groaning and talking at the same time. She told me that she was feeling a serious burning sensation in her chest region. I could really bet it that she was very scared. She told me that she could not sleep because she was feeling very uncomfortable and therefore begged me to come over to her place. I grabbed the bottle of antacid I kept somewhere on the room and rushed out of the house immediately.
I got to her house in a few minutes since it was just a few blocks away. I knocked on the gate a couple of times and finally got a response from Haruna, the gateman. “Aunty Feju, yaya dai,” he asked and while opening the gate, he further enquired in his usual Hausa accent and said “Hoph there is no froblem?” I assured him that all was well.
I got to Yetunde’s apartment and met her sprawled on the bed. I quickly helped her to two tablespoonfuls of the antacid. After some minutes, she felt better and was able to tell me how she had been feeling a slight burning sensation in her chest region for some weeks. But she chose to ignore it because it really did not affect her and neither did it affect her job. She said while she was lying down to sleep, that she felt a rush of acidic content come from her stomach through to her chest and finally ended in her mouth. I asked her what she ate that night, and she told me that she had Suya and a bottle of apple drink. From her story, I knew immediately that she had an incidence of Gastro Oesophageal reflux which was secondary to the heartburn she had previously.
Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart, but has been called this because the sensations are perceived as originating in the region of the heart. It is a burning sensation in the chest just behind the breastbone.   After food is chewed in the mouth, the mixed mass of food is swallowed and passes down the oesophagus. Muscles at the base of the tongue facilitate the swallowing process. Then, if the body is in the upright position, gravity aids the movement of food down the oesophagus. At the entrance of the stomach is a muscle which allows food to enter, then constricts again to retain the food within the stomach cavity. If this muscle is not working properly, it may allow acid-mixed food to seep back into the oesophagus.  The result is a discomforting feeling of heartburn. . Heartburn pain is often worse when lying down or bending over.
Occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm. Most people can manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with lifestyle changes and over the counter medications.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night
Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over

Two excesses often contribute to this problem: too much food in the stomach (overeating) or too much pressure on the stomach (frequently from obesity or pregnancy). Stress and lack of sleep can increase acid production and cause heartburn. Smoking stimulates the stomach acid and therefore is a major contributor of heartburn.
Certain foods which include chocolate, fried and fatty foods, peppermint, soft drinks, coffee and alcohol can trigger heartburn.
Here are some suggestions to improve your heartburn symptoms.
Do not go to bed with a full stomach. Eat meals at least two to three hours before lying down. This will give food time to digest and empty from the stomach, and gives acid levels a chance to decrease before putting your body in a position where heartburn is more likely to occur.
Do not overeat. Decrease the size of portions at meal times, or try eating four to five small meals instead of three large ones.
Eat slowly. Take time to eat and not rush your meals.
Wear loose fitting clothes.
Avoid heartburn triggers. Stay away from food and beverages that trigger heartburn such as the ones listed above.
Shed some kilograms if you are overweight.
Stop smoking and avoid alcohol.
To add quick digestion, and hence decrease the likelihood of heartburn, take some Yoyo Bitters after heavy meals.

By Peju Onifade

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