Heartburn and indigestion are often used interchangeably, but they're actually different conditions.
Indigestion, or dyspepsia, describes an upset stomach. It may cause a painful or burning feeling in your abdomen. Also called a sour stomach, indigestion may happen once in a while or often. Indigestion is a general term that speaks to a wide range of digestive issues. Heartburn, on the other hand, occurs when stomach acid escapes into your oesophagus. It is one type of indigestion.
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a painful condition occurring when stomach acid flows up into your oesophagus, causing a burning sensation behind the breast bone area. Heartburn can last from a few minutes to several hours, and often feels worse after you eat.
What causes heartburn?
While most heartburn sufferers may recognize the symptoms of the condition, few are aware of how it starts. The root cause of heartburn stems from a weakened lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), or when the LES relaxes abnormally. The LES is a circular band of muscle at the bottom of your oesophagus, and it acts like a 'valve' as it enters the stomach. Normally when you swallow, your LES relaxes to let food and liquid flow into your stomach, and then it closes again. For some people, though, the LES may open too often or not close tight enough. When this happens, the acid in your stomach can flow back up into your oesophagus. Since your oesophagus doesn't have the same protective lining that your stomach does, the acid can irritate its more sensitive tissues, causing heartburn and discomfort.
What Triggers Heartburn?
Heartburn can be triggered by various things, including some medications, but eating is the main culprit. It can be caused by the specific foods you eat as well as by eating too much, or simply eating a big, heavy meal close to bedtime. Carbonated and alcoholic beverages can also give you heartburn. People who are overweight often suffer from heartburn. Even a few extra pounds can put pressure on your stomach, causing acid to back up into your oesophagus.
Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is acid reflux that occurs regularly. Reflux by itself isn't unusual. GERD, on the other hand, develops when acid reflux happens two or more times a week and produces troublesome symptoms.
GERD is one of the most common disorders seen by general practitioners and gastroenterologists. The symptoms of GERD can include cough, hoarseness, asthma, dental erosions, chest pain, and sleep disturbances. If left untreated, GERD may lead to some serious health problems.
Since GERD is chronic acid reflux, the same causes apply. Smoking, being overweight or pregnant, or eating spicy, fatty, fried, or acidic foods all are associated with GERD. The symptoms of GERD are similar to those of heartburn—a burning sensation in your chest, a sour or bitter taste in your throat, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain after lying down.
Your stomach has a protective lining of mucus called the mucosa. This lining protects your stomach from the strong stomach acid that digests food. When something damages or weakens this protective lining, the mucosa becomes inflamed, causing gastritis.
It may present as acute or chronic, erosive or non-erosive disease. Erosive gastritis causes both inflammation and erosion of the stomach lining. Non-erosive causes inflammation of the stomach lining without erosion or compromising the stomach lining.
Causes of gastritis include bacterial infection, the most common type being Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) , damage to the gastric mucosa caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alcohol, stress, or an autoimmune response (e.g. Crohn’s disease, sarcoidosis). Gastritis, which is often asymptomatic, can, however, mimic indigestion symptoms. If the gastritis is symptomatic, common symptoms are upper abdominal discomfort or pain, nausea, and vomiting.
The risk of developing gastritis goes up with age. Older adults have thinner stomach linings, decreased circulation and a slower metabolism of mucosal repair. Older adults are also more likely to be on medications such as NSAIDs.
How is gastritis treated?
Treatment for gastritis varies depending on the cause. Certain medications kill bacteria (antibiotics) while others, such as antacids and H2 blockers, alleviate indigestion like symptoms by decreasing stomach acid production and relieving inflammation.
Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole and lansoprazole also reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. PPIs are used to treat stomach ulcers and GERD as well.
The most common management strategy for treating all these conditions is reduction of gastric acidity to relieve symptoms and promote repair of the stomach lining. Medications that reduce the amount of acid in the stomach include antacids such as aluminium and magnesium salts, ranitidine, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole and lansoprazole.
Doctors in the UK write about 50 million prescriptions every year for PPIs.
Though PPIs are a highly effective treatment of indigestion, heartburn, GERD and gastritis, and are generally safe, studies have shown that over prolonged use is associated with minor and also potentially major adverse health outcomes, such as osteoporosis, acute and chronic renal diseases.
There is up to a 20% risk of developing the bone thinning condition osteoporosis because the drugs hinder the ability of the stomach to absorb calcium – a mineral vital for healthy bones. It has also been shown that taking PPIs in the long term can lead to other nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin-b12, essential for healthy blood cells and nerve function.
PPIs are often prescribed alongside anti-inflammatory medication such as NSAIDs, steroids and aspirin to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding associated with those drugs.
Whilst treatment guidelines clearly recommend not using antacids for long periods, withdrawal of PPIs has been demonstrated to cause rebound hyper-acidity even after short periods of use. Many patients experience a worsening of symptoms after withdrawal.
A safe and effective alternative treatment
In the search for a natural, safe and effective alternative to proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in the treatment of patients with dyspepsia and/or heartburn, in depth studies have been carried out by the International Institute for Integrated Medicine, into Gastricumeel (Ga6).
Ga6 is a natural combination medicinal product consisting of six ingredients traditionally used for the treatment of bloating, acid reflux, and other gastritis-related symptoms as well as for heartburn.
The majority of these studies included Ga6 as part of complex protocols with other homeopathic medicinal products and/or with standard conventional treatments. No direct comparison of Ga6 with a standard therapy has been previously investigated.
This study informs health care professionals about the effectiveness and safety of Ga6 in patients with dyspepsia and/or heartburn.
The results suggest that it is worth considering Ga6 as a safe and effective alternative treatment option in the management of dyspepsia and heartburn. In addition, Ga6 has a potential role to play in supporting patients who find it difficult to withdraw from PPIs.
To read the full report please click on the link
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