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When the stomach feels like it's on fire

A rich and sumptuous meal can easily upset your stomach, and some people may even experience heartburn afterwards. The resulting sharp pain in the chest is not only unpleasant, it also harbours a number of health risks. However, there are things you can do to prevent heartburn.

You experience heartburn not only as the acidic taste arising from the stomach but also as a burning feeling or sharp pain under the sternum. These symptoms are caused when the stomach's contents regurgitate into the oesophagus (also referred to as reflux) because the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus that normally opens when you swallow doesn't close properly. Although occasional heartburn can be very unpleasant, it is generally harmless.

Health risks
Frequent and lasting heartburn, on the other hand, can lead to inflammations, ulcer, constriction of the oesophagus, and in extreme cases to oesophageal cancer, due to increased exposure to acidic stomach fluids over longer periods.

We therefore recommend that you see a doctor if heartburn occurs several times a week, during the night, or when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain in the upper abdomen, vomiting, or problems when swallowing. We also recommend that you identify and avoid the factors that cause heartburn at an early stage.

Proper diet

  • Support your digestive functions by eating regular meals. Be sure to eat smaller amounts, because large quantities of food can put an excessive strain on your stomach. Try to take your last meal approximately three hours before you go to sleep.
  • Chewing deliberately and slowly will help to relieve your stomach, because the saliva initiates the digestive function already in the mouth.
  • Foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole wheat products are easy to digest and help to prevent heartburn.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that cause the stomach to produce lots of acid, such as fatty, sour, spicy and sweet foods, as well as coffee.

Improve the quality of life

  • Continuing stress can also lead to heartburn because the stomach responds to tension. Therefore, try to reduce your stress levels.
  • Quit smoking, because nicotine weakens the sphincter at the entrance to the stomach and stimulates the production of acids. Alcohol, too, tends to weaken the sphincter muscle.
  • Pay attention to your weight, because being overweight puts a strain on the stomach, which in turn affects the function of the sphincter

sante24 – your health advice helpline
The doctors and medical staff of sante24 are available to share their expertise on health issues, free of charge and around the clock. They will also make a doctor's appointment for you on request. Tel. +41 (0)44 404 86 86