Does your gut spell trouble for you at night? Heartburn is a disturbing malady affecting millions of people across ages and walks of life. It is characterized as a burning feeling just right below the breast bones rising from the stomach into the neck or throat. Many people often mistake the sensation to that of a heart attack for obvious reasons. Often, people have this feeling when out and about. There are others, however, who have heartburn at night—which can be more dangerous.
Occasional heartburn at night is no biggie. It could be due to binging on food or alcohol or fizzy drinks and, not one that require medical attention. For more obstinate night time heartburn occurrences however, a lifestyle and medical check should be done immediately to assess the causes behind the malady. Four of the most common causes of nighttime heartburn are foods, drinks, pregnancy and medications.
Food and Drinks. People who consume a lot of these stuffs—caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, spicy, fatty and oily foods, chocolates and soda, citrus- and tomato-based foods or drinks, and sometimes too much spices—before bedtime is up for a challenging pillow-fight ahead. These items can easily derail the usual functions of the digestive enzymes leading acid to push back to the mouth of the stomach into the esophagus.
Pregnancy. Pregnant individuals are also prone to experience heartburn at night due to hormonal and physical changes. The muscles surrounding the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that keeps stomach acid, can be affected with certain hormonal changes leading to heartburn. Of course, the added pressure of the growing uterus to the stomach can also increase such instances.
Medications. Some people also experience heartburn at night when using medications for: sea sickness, beta blockers and calcium channel blocker for hypertension and heart ailment, Dopamine-based drugs, progestin, sedatives, theophylline for lung diseases and tricyclic depressants.
Certain behaviors like smoking and eating at ungodly hours or distinct sleeping positions also cause heartburn at night.
Risks of Heartburn at Night
Occasional nighttime heartburn poses no notable risks to certain individuals. This could just be brought by too much lying flat when asleep, which can aggravate its symptoms. Add to that the absence of swallowing impulse when you’re asleep. Thus, continued occurrence of heartburn during night time can pose a huge threat particularly in the esophageal area.
A raised bed wedge gives instant relief from the problem.
One common risk of continued nighttime heartburn is esophagitis. This is an inflammation which can cause lasting damage to the esophageal tissues. This is a painful condition that makes swallowing difficult accompanied by chest pain. If left untreated, it can damage the lining of the esophagus and interfere with its usual functions as well as certain complications involving scarring, stricture and swallowing difficulties.
Often, many patients suffering from nighttime heartburn also suffer from insomnia or difficulty sleeping. In some rare cases, it can also develop to Barrett’s esophagus or worst, esophageal cancer.
Prevention and Treatment
Fortunately, there are certain ways to prevent and treat heartburn at night. To prevent heartburn from occurring, one can:
- quit smoking
- avoid heartburn-inducing foods
- eat smaller meals during the day
- eat 3 to 4 hours prior to sleeping
- engage in weight loss regimen
- chew gum during nighttime to increase saliva production
- modify sleeping position (particularly to pregnant mothers and overweight individuals) by propping up the head with pillows or blocks under the pillow
- drink ginger ale to calm the stomach
Some people reach out to antacids to help neutralize stomach acids. Tums, for instance, is one type of OTC which can be safely taken by pregnant individuals. Alginates such as Gaviscon are another form of over-the-counter medication usually given to individuals suffering from heartburn at night. This type of medication helps produce a glue-like coating that shields the stomach and esophagus linings when acid backfires.
When prevention and OTC medications are deemed ineffective, doctors usually prescribe month-long proton-pump inhibitors to reduce production of acid in the stomach. If that doesn’t help, another 2-week medication of H2 Receptor antagonist will be given to block histamine, a chemical compound in the body that helps produce stomach acid. In some cases, a prokinetic medication may also be given for short-term use to help lessen acid irritation. If all other medications fail, a surgical procedure may be done.
Indeed, there is more to heartburn at night than what meets the eye. It is important to address the situation immediately before it worsens and complicate your life. Aside from prevention techniques, there are also natural remedies for you to try. It is wise however, to consult with a trusted physician before taking anything to ensure a sound wellbeing and complications.