Help for Heartburn

Help for Heartburn

I suffer from indigestion quite often, sometimes with a sour tasting liquid in my mouth. What can I do to prevent this?

This common problem may involve dyspepsia, which is pain or discomfort in your upper abdomen, and/or heartburn, a burning pain behind the breastbone. Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville ( explains that ‘indigestion happens when your body finds it difficult to break down food so that it can be digested properly. Other symptoms include nausea, bloating, flatulence, cramps, constipation or diarrhoea.’

Heartburn is due to stomach acid reflux, says Dr Glenville. ‘It’s normal for your stomach to produce acid but sometimes the acid causes irritation or pain plus the burning sensation, and may come up into your mouth, causing the sour-tasting fluid you have experienced.’ Heartburn often affects pregnant women, who should seek advice from their GP or midwife.

The most common causes of indigestion are:

  • Eating too much or too fast, particularly if you are feeling anxious or stressed; cramming in fast food on the run rather than sitting down to eat a wholesome meal.
  • Spicy and/or high fat/sugar foods, eg, curry, cheese or milk chocolate.
  • Fizzy and/or sugary drinks, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Too much alcohol, coffee or tea and too little still water.
  • Being overweight, as this puts pressure on your stomach.
  • Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and antibiotics, which can irritate the stomach lining; only take these on a full stomach and when really necessary.

Persistent indigestion or heartburn could be a sign of a more serious digestive disorder, so do consult your GP. In most cases, however, only simple shifts are needed. Dr Glenville advises:

  • Drink plenty of fluids but not with your meals, as this dilutes the digestive juices.
  • If you feel stressed before a meal, first spend a few minutes breathing gently and rhythmically.
  • Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly helps prevent indigestion and overeating.
  • Sit at a table with your back straight rather than slouching over a plate on your lap.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink a day and caffeinated drinks to one or two. Swap to herbal tea such as peppermint, fennel or ginger.
  • Replace high fat/sugar/carb foods with vegetables.
  • Research shows that taking a probiotic helps. Also before very rich meals consider digestive enzymes. Try NHP Advanced Probiotic Support, £31.80 for 60 capsules, and BioCare Polyzyme Forte digestive enzymes, £26.90 for 90 capsules, both Victoria Health (

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