What is it?
Stomach acidity, also known by the scientific term heartburn, is a pathological condition, which one in ten people suffer from. It is a digestive system disorder, characterized by an increased secretion of hydrochloric acid. The symptoms, or a strong burning sensation, becomes more chronic when the secretion of hydrochloric acid exceeds that of the mucus, with a protective action against the gastric mucosa, generating inflammation or irritation, noticeable in the upper part of the abdomen .
The onset of gastric acidity may be due to various factors, in fact it is considered a pathological condition with multifactorial causes and, in some cases, difficult to diagnose.
Gastric acidity can depend on various factors such as:
- Frequent intake of highly spiced foods;
- Frequent intake of foods that stimulate gastric secretion such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, onions, coffee, refined sugars, eggs, milk and derivatives, beans and frequent consumption of meat;
- Cigarette smoking;
- Medicines such as antiblastic or anticancer drugs, antidepressants such as fluoxetine, anticoagulants such as acetylsalicylic acid and warfarin, anti-inflammatories or cortisone drugs;
- Hearty meals;
- Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium responsible for the onset of chronic gastritis, with symptoms such as gastric hypersecretion and digestive heaviness.
Depending on which anatomical region of the stomach, the inflammation or the burning sensation is located, we can distinguish different forms of acidity:
- If the burning sensation affects the central area of the abdomen and occurs after a large meal, we speak of gastric acidity and therefore inflammation is developed in the stomach.
- If the burning sensation arises between meals, at night after dinner and it is attenuated by the ingestion of food, it is referred to as duodenal acidity and therefore inflammation is present in the mucous membrane of the duodenum.
- If the burning sensation starts from the bottom of the stomach up to the neck and jaws, it is called gastroesophageal reflux. In this case, stomach acid travels upward from the stomach and into the esophagus. This happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, does not close properly. Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over.
- Sometimes gastroesophageal reflux can be the cause of a hiatal hernia, that occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Hiatal hernia is a very common pathological condition that affects approximately 40-60% of the population worldwide.
- It is important to remember that heartburn very often also depends on emotional factors, such as anxiety or character disturbances.
- Bad eating behaviours are crucial factors for the development of heartburn.
When the symptoms become very striking, it is advisable to carry out a specific gastroenterological visit, in order to identify the causes and undertake the most effective therapy. The tests that are carried out by the gastroenterologist in cases of gastric acidity are generally the following:
- X-ray of the esophagus, stomach or intestine to identify which esophageal, gastric or duodenal mucosa has been damaged by hyperacidity.
- Esophageal PHmetry is a specific test to quantify the amount of acid in the stomach or coming from the stomach;
- Esophageal manometry is an examination that analyzes the movements of the esophagus and gastroesophageal sphincter, or the muscular valve interposed between the end of the esophagus and the pit of the stomach.
Cures and remedies
Acidity treatment therapy can be either pharmacological or based on the application of natural remedies. Logically, following an accurate visit, the competent specialist will decide which therapy to implement as a cure for the patient in question.
As for the drugs, antacids can be prescribed, with an alkalizing function and therefore a buffering of the strongly acidic pH, among which the most used drug and prescribed by doctors for the disease in question is the maalox.
Maalox has alkalizing atoms such as magnesium hydrate Mg (OH) 2 and aluminum hydrate Al (OH) 3, compared to other antacids it has the advantage of presenting a longer-lasting mechanism of action and has a longer absorption capacity slow, so as not to alter the pH of the blood.
Additional drugs prescribed are pump inhibitors that bind to the proton pump expressed on the surface of the cells of the gastric mucosa, inactivating it, where the progenitor of this category is omeprazole.
Non-pharmacological therapy involves changes in the patient’s lifestyle and nutrition. Lifestyle changes that can help in case of heart burn are:
- Stop smoking;
- Reduce the dose of drugs predisposing to hyperchlorhydria;
- Reduce alcohol consumption,
- Avoid wearing tight clothing or constricting belts;
- Avoid going to bed or lying down immediately after eating,
- During the rest it is important to keep the head raised about 10-15 cm., Avoid those movements that increase abdominal pressure,
- Avoid snacking after dinner in order not to increase nocturnal gastric secretion.
- Obesity, where visceral fat causes greater pressure on the stomach, favoring the rise of gastric contents,
- Changes in the patient’s nutrition.
- It is important to remove the intake of drinks that increase gastric secretion, such as coffee and carbonated drinks, including mineral water.
- It is important to remove foods that stimulate hyperacidity such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, onions, coffee, refined sugars, eggs, milk and derivatives, beans and frequent consumption of meat.
- It is important to take fruits such as bananas, apples and blueberries because they not only have an alkalizing effect, but also a gastro-protective effect as they increase the secretion of mucus, as a defense against acidity for the gastric mucosa.
- It is advisable in case of gastric acidity, to consume fruit between meals.
- Prefer steaming or grilling, avoid frying, with an irritating action on the gastric mucosa.
- Cheeses rich in fat have a corrosive action on the gastric mucosa.
- The water protects the gastric mucosa from the attack of gastric juices, it is important to drink 2-2.5 liters of water per day.
- Milk has a temporary action on the attenuation of heartburn, thanks to its neutralizing and buffering capacity. However, in the event that it is taken in large quantities, it can have counterproductive and stimulatory effects on gastric secretion, being a food with a high protein content.
- Avoid large meals, it would be optimal, for the improvement of symptoms, to follow a dissociated diet.
- It is necessary to eat slowly and chew properly during meals, as there are enzymes in the saliva that initiate a first digestion of food, subsequently facilitating gastric activity. Eating hastily, swallowing food, increases heartburn or reflux, as it increases the time the food remains in the stomach. This is why it is essential that chewing is very slow and that the diet is divided into five meals divided over the course of the day, rather than two large meals.