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Suffering From Heartburn During Winter? – We Might Know The Reason

acid reflux
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You may not know it, but acidity can peak or worsen during the winter season. This could be due to staying home for long, being physically inactive, having a sedentary lifestyle and eating oily, spicy and junk foods. The reduced physical activity and increased caloric intake result in higher body mass index. 

All these factors lead to a slow digestion process, ultimately causing acid reflux and heartburn. So, if you are physically inactive, your digestive system can lead to acid reflux and pain. Adopting preventive measures to avoid acidity is the perfect solution to your problem.

Does the winter season make you crave hot and spicy food more?

Chilly winter weather affects more than just temperature. Your body experiences changes in energy levels, metabolism and, even, food choices. When you get cold, do you skip the gym and convince yourself that you deserve a calorie splurge to warm up and offset your discomfort?  Well, you’re not the only one! However, the fact is that no weather warrants overindulging on unhealthy foods and eating habits. Just as you should not overeat ice-cream during the hottest summer days, you should not live on an unhealthy diet of spicy/oily/junk food during winter either, as it may cause acid reflux. 

Here are a few healthy and tasty ways to prevent acid reflux:

  • Root vegetables – Beets, carrots and turnips 
  • Oatmeal – High in zinc (important for immunity) and soluble fibre (related to heart health) 
  • Soup – With lots of vegetables, and base as vegetable/chicken broth 
  • Broccoli or cauliflower 

Winter comes with many surprises… But not all may be pleasant.
So take a pause before you pop the pill!

As winter approaches, we tend to attribute a whole bunch of symptoms of having a cold such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and so on. For treating pain and aches, we take a painkiller while, to treat cold and cough symptoms, we usually pop an antibiotic.  Although unhealthy food habits and poor lifestyle choices are major causes of acidity and heartburn, certain types of medicines like antibiotics and painkillers can also trigger acidity. 

Acidity due to painkillers

Apart from food and lifestyle, certain painkillers that you take can also cause heartburn and acidity. Most painkillers, like aspirin and ibuprofen, used to treat mild-to-moderate pain, belong to the drug class called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although they help alleviate pain, they can cause acidity and ulcers in the stomach. A study done in 2008 has found that 27% of individuals using NSAIDs reported heartburn, acid regurgitation or both compared to 19% non-users. Regular use of anti-inflammatory painkillers can increase the risk of ulcers up to five times, along with indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation and bloody stools.

Acidity due to antibiotics

Enormous microbiomes are present in the stomach and intestines, including bacteria (both good and bad) that help in the digestion process. Antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections in the body, unfortunately, cannot differentiate between the good and bad bacteria present in the gut and produce side effects such as, nausea and vomiting, acid reflux, heartburn, gas and bloating, cramping and diarrhoea.

Managing heartburn while taking painkillers and antibiotics this winter

Patients who use painkillers frequently, acidity, heartburn and stomach ulcers can pose a grave problem. Different ways to alleviate the symptoms include: 

  • Use ONLY when prescribed by the physician. 
  • Painkillers should be only consumed in quantity and time intervals as prescribed by the doctor. This can help reduce the risk of ulcers and heartburn.
  • Take painkillers with or after food as food helps reduce irritation of the stomach lining and reduces the risk of indigestion, heartburn and stomach pain.
  • Consume mucilage-containing foods like liquorice root tea, aloe vera juice as they act as a natural coat that protects the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

Post antibiotic intake, restore your gut health with these simple tips:

  • Take prebiotics as they induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms, thereby improving gut health.
  • Consume fermented foods as they are an excellent approach to proper gut health post-antibiotic use.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables like bananas, sweet potatoes, and other tubers that are fresh and readily available sources of prebiotics.

Relieving acid reflux after consuming painkillers and/or antibiotics

Many over-the-counter, as well as prescribed medications, can help relieve acid reflux and heartburn. These include:

  • Antacids: Help neutralise stomach acid. Antacids may provide quick relief, but they cannot heal an oesophagus damaged by stomach acid.
  • H2-receptor antagonists: Can decrease stomach acid. They do not act as quickly as antacids but may provide longer relief. ex. cimetidine, famotidine and ranitidine.
  • Proton pump inhibitors: Omeprazole can reduce stomach acid. Amongst several PPIs available like Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, Rabeprazole and Esomeprazole, Omeprazole is the one having highest published evidence and studies regarding its better safety. All the PPIs have similar efficacy; however, Omeprazole, due to its better safety and highest affordability, is the most used PPI globally with more than 40% prescription share worldwide.

These medicines are most helpful for people who have heartburn often, i.e., more than two days a week. In case of severe acidity, the patient may have to undergo surgery (vagotomy) to curb the acid production in the stomach.

Know more about Omeprazole 

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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