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Constant heartburn: what it can be and what to do

Heartburn

Constant heartburn can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, pregnancy, poor diet, nervousness or wearing very tight clothes, for example, causing a burning sensation in the stomach, nausea or constant belching.

Depending on its cause, constant heartburn may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as poor digestion, bloating, abdominal discomfort, coughing up blood and chest pain.

It is important to consult a gastroenterologist whenever constant heartburn appears, in addition to other symptoms, so that its cause can be identified, and thus, the most appropriate treatment can be started.

10 causes of constant heartburn

The main causes of constant heartburn are:

1. Gastroesophageal reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux is the involuntary return of the contents of the stomach to the esophagus, being one of the main causes of constant heartburn.

In addition to the burning sensation in the stomach, it causes other symptoms such as intense pain in the chest region, similar to the pain of a heart attack or angina, dry cough and even respiratory problems such as asthma and pneumonia.

What to do: some simple measures can be taken to alleviate discomfort, such as avoiding lying down right after eating, sleeping with the head elevated, as well as taking some care with your diet, avoiding the consumption of coffee, alcohol, fatty foods and acidic drinks, for example .

Furthermore, when heartburn does not improve with changes in diet, the gastroenterologist may recommend the use of antacids, gastric protectors or gastric emptying accelerators, for example. Check out the main remedies for gastroesophageal reflux.

2. Hiatal hernia

Hiatus hernia is a problem that facilitates reflux and is therefore another of the main causes of constant heartburn. Typically, hiatal hernia is more common in people who are overweight, who smoke, or who exercise excessively.

Symptoms are mild and very similar to those of reflux, including indigestion especially when the person lies down after eating, and worsen when the person bends over, strains or lifts heavy objects.

What to do: It is recommended to eat slowly and more times a day, avoid heavy meals at least two hours before going to sleep, lie with the head of the bed elevated, avoid fatty foods, acids, alcohol, cigarettes, in cases of overweight or obesity it is advised to weight loss. See more about how to avoid reflux caused by a hiatal hernia.

Don't ignore your symptoms!

3. Gastritis

Gastritis is irritation or inflammation that occurs in the stomach caused by infections, stress, allergies, use of some medications and changes in the immune system.

Symptoms depend on the type of gastritis and can include abdominal pain and discomfort, nausea and vomiting, indigestion and a feeling of being full even after a small meal. Learn how to identify the symptoms of gastritis.

What to do: It is recommended to reduce the consumption of foods that increase acidity in the stomach, such as spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, fatty foods or plain milk. It is also important to avoid fasting for a long time, as in these cases there is a greater accumulation of gastric acid in the stomach, which worsens inflammation. The use of medication that reduces the production of gastric juice, such as antacids, for example, is also indicated.

4. Esophagitis

Esophagitis is an inflammation that occurs in the esophagus, which occurs mainly due to reflux, but can also be a consequence of an allergic reaction to a certain food.

The symptoms are very similar to those of gastritis, but in addition to these, there may also be difficulties swallowing, loss of appetite, and a feeling that the food ingested is stuck in the throat, not making its way to the stomach as it should.

What to do: The use of corticosteroid medicines will help to coat the esophagus and control the inflammation caused and therefore, if esophagitis is suspected, a gastroenterologist should be consulted.

Some adjustments to the diet should also be made, such as eliminating foods with wheat flour, milk and dairy products, seafood, nuts, eggs and soy, helping to alleviate and avoid reflux symptoms, for example. Furthermore, it is necessary to identify the type of food that caused the allergy and remove it completely from the diet. See how esophagitis is treated.

5. Pregnancy

In pregnant women, heartburn may be present from the beginning of pregnancy, due to the hormonal changes that occur and also due to the growth of the belly.

With the increase in the production of the hormone progesterone, the stomach muscles also unintentionally relax, causing acids to rise into the esophagus, causing the feeling of constant heartburn.

What to do: It is recommended to eat more frequently, eat smaller portions more times a day, avoid drinking liquids during meals, not lie down immediately after eating and wear comfortable clothing. See more tips on how to relieve heartburn during pregnancy.

6. Food intolerance

Food intolerance is a difficulty that the body has in digesting certain foods ingested, such as lactose or gluten intolerance.

Digestion is slower because the body no longer has as many enzymes responsible for degrading certain nutrients, so there is an accumulation of these nutrients in the stomach causing gastric discomfort, such as colic, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and heartburn.

It is also very common in people who have food intolerance associated symptoms such as: bloating and abdominal pain, excessive tiredness, itching or spots on the skin. Find out how to identify if you have a food intolerance.

What to do: It is important to identify the type of food that is causing the intolerance, for this you can keep a food diary, where you record everything you ate and what symptoms appeared throughout the day. Once the food has been identified, it is important to completely cut it out of the diet.

Another way to alleviate the symptoms of food intolerance is to use medicines with enzymes, which help with digestion, as is the case with lactase in lactose intolerance.

7. Wearing tight clothes

Wearing uncomfortable and tight clothing can cause pressure on the stomach, causing gastric acids to rise into the esophagus, causing reflux and heartburn.

What to do: It is interesting to choose to wear light and comfortable clothing that does not put too much pressure on the belly area, such as tight pants and belts.

8. Poor diet

Poor diet, such as eating very fatty foods, such as fried foods, as well as spicy foods, foods rich in sugar such as chocolates and ice cream, can also cause constant heartburn, as they remain in the stomach for longer to be digested, increasing acid production and irritating the stomach mucosa.

Furthermore, excessive consumption of caffeine or alcoholic beverages can also increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux or gastritis, for example, and result in constant heartburn.

What to do: You should avoid consuming very fatty foods, foods rich in sugar, alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, and prioritize a healthy, varied, balanced and nutritious diet, including fruits, vegetables and fresh vegetables, for example. Learn how to eat a balanced and nutritious diet.

9. Smoking habit

Smoking can weaken the esophageal sphincter, which is responsible for contracting when there is food in the stomach, keeping that food inside the stomach.

This can result in gastroesophageal reflux, since with a malfunction of the esophageal sphincter, the contents of the stomach can return to the mouth, causing pain and a burning sensation, constant heartburn, throat irritation or even breathing problems.

What to do: Smoking should be stopped to avoid worsening heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux. If necessary, your general practitioner can recommend measures to stop smoking or medications, such as bupropion or varenicline. See the main remedies to stop smoking.

10. Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can increase the release of hormones, such as cortisol, which stimulate the stomach to produce acid, resulting in constant heartburn.

In addition to heartburn, other symptoms may also appear, such as nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, for example.

What to do: It is recommended to consult a psychologist, as it helps to understand how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors, and develop tools to deal with stress or anxiety situations.

However, when stress or anxiety is intense, you should consult a psychiatrist or general practitioner who can recommend the most appropriate treatment.