Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 29:
A large number of people experience heartburn, occasionally or frequently, but a change in lifestyle can go a long way in combating the condition, an expert has said.
“Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus or food pipe caused by stomach acid. This can create a burning discomfort in the upper abdomen or below the breast bone,” Dr. Manoj Kumar Sahu, Head of department of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases at the IMS and Sum Hospital (IMSSH) said on Friday.
May 29 is observed as the World Digestive Health Day and theme for this year chosen by the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) is “Heartburn: A Global Perspective,” he said.
Explaining the phenomenon, Dr. Sahu said a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, was located where the esophagus met the stomach. “Normally it opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes again. But if the LES opens too often or does not close tight enough, stomach acid can reflux, or seep, into the esophagus and cause the burning sensation,” he said.
“Occasional heartburn isn’t dangerous, but chronic heartburn or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) can sometimes lead to serious problems,” Dr. Sahu warned.
He said the prevalence of GERD was on the rise worldwide the reason for which was not entirely clear but appeared to be linked to increasing prevalence of obesity and, perhaps, to other dietary factors.
On many occasions, he said, the pain of acid reflux was mistaken for the pain of a heart attack. But heartburn could also be the presenting feature of other conditions ranging from functional heartburn to eosinophilic esophagitis and motility disorders such as achalasia as well as extra-esophageal conditions including ischemic heart disease.
Besides, it was also associated with the greater risk of Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-malignant condition that could progress to esophageal cancer, he said.
Lifestyle changes could help ease heartburn and a person needed to maintain a healthy weight as obesity could put pressure on the abdomen pushing the stomach and causing acid to back up into the esophagus, Dr. Sahu said.
Tight fitting clothes needed to be avoided as also food which could trigger heartburn which included spicy foods, onions, citrus and tomato products, fried food, chocolate, alcohol, carbonated beverages and coffee or other caffeinated beverages, he pointed out.
The WGO campaign for World Digestive Health Day today sought to translate research into clinical practice and ensure that patients received appropriate dietary and lifestyle advice as well as appropriate investigations and treatment.
The department of Gastroenterology at the IMS and Sum Hospital, equipped with all advanced technology for the diagnosis and management of all gastrointestinal and liver diseases, sought to create awareness about common gastrointestinal symptoms and provide advice on healthy diet and lifestyle measures to prevent such symptoms, he said.