Heartburn and Acid Reflux Becoming More Common

The results of a study published in the medical journal GUT on 21 December 2011 are showing a worrying increase in the frequency with which symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux are suffered.

The research which was carried out in Norway collected health information by questionnaires over two periods from almost 30,000 people.  The first period covered 1995 to 1997 and the second period covered 2006 to 2009.  The questionnaire asked the participants whether they experienced the symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux and if so how severe these symptoms were.  Some of the participants were also questioned about the frequency with which these symptoms were suffered.

The main points coming out of this study which was conducted by researchers from Norway, Sweden and King’s College London are that:-

  • the incidence of all heartburn/acid reflux symptoms rose 30% over the two review periods
  •  the incidence of  severe symptoms rose by 24%
  • the numbers experiencing  heartburn/acid reflux symptoms at least least once a week increased by 47%
  • Women under 40 were least likely to experience the symptoms and were more likely to have the symptoms disappear without treatment
  •  Those aged 60 to 69 were the most likely to have severe symptoms, with women experiencing this symptoms more frequently than men
  • Age did not increase the likelihood of a man suffering  heartburn/acid reflux symptoms.

Possible explanations for the increases proposed include:-

  • Excessive weight – over the period of the study there has been a large increase in the numbers of the population who are overweight or obese.
  • The use of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
A more detailed article on this topic can be found here.


Does Heartburn Have Anything to Do With the Heart?

The short answer to that question is no.

The term heartburn originates from the burning sensation which can be felt in the middle of the chest close to the heart.  It is pain caused by the damage to the esophagus that the reflux of acid from the stomach causes and it has nothing to do with the heart at all. However, having said that heartburn has nothing to do with the heart, the symptoms of heartburn can be very similar to the signs of heart disease. If you experience heartburn with any of the symptoms listed below you should consult your doctor immediately as it may possibly mean that you’re having a heart attack.

  • Pain radiating into your back, neck, jaw, shoulders or arms — especially your left arm
  • Sudden pressure, tightening, squeezing or crushing pain in the center of the chest that doesn’t disappear after a few minutes
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Being short of breath or having difficulty breathing
  • Becoming clammy or sweaty
  • Vomiting with blood
  • Bloody or black stools

You should also contact your doctor immediately if your heartburn feels different or more severe than normal and it occurs during or immediately following physical activity or, if you experience any new chest pain or discomfort and you smoke, are overweight or have heart disease diabetes, high cholesterol or previously had a heart attack.  Remember that correct diagnosis and prompt medical treatment can save lives.  Although the occasional occurrence of heartburn is extremely common and should be of little concern, if you are regularly experiencing heartburn you need to speak with your doctor as this could mean you have an ulcer or other underlying health condition. Heartburn caused by acid reflux usually increases after eating but if your heartburn is worse before eating, it can be a sign that you have an ulcer.

Milk of Magnesia: An OTC Heartburn Acne and Beauty Treatment

This is a little off topic for the site but as I found it so interesting I thought I’d include a post on the subject any how.

Milk of Magnesia is probably one of the best known OTC antacid treatments and whilst the design of the bottle may have changed and a few flavorings have been added along the way, it is still relatively unchanged from the original version that was first sold in 1880.  The active ingredient, Magnesium Hydroxide is what gives the medicine its cloudy milk like appearance and its name, and it is this ingredient which has also given Milk of Magnesia a very different use to the usual heartburn and constipation issues that it has traditionally treated.

Paula Begoun author of the book “Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me” uses Milk of Magnesia as a simple face mask to remedy an excessively oily skin which is often the cause of spots and acne.  You simply apply the original non flavored Milk of Magnesia to your skin avoiding the delicate eye area and then wait for it to dry.  This should take around 10 to 15 minutes and you then just wash it off.  The Magnesium Hydroxide absorbs the excess oil just as effectively as any clay based mask and it costs a lot less.

If you’re looking to save money on cosmetics and beauty treatments you might also be interested in looking at the books and DVDs available on Amazon by Paula Begoun.