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Heartburn affects 1 in 3 adults and has worsened for many during pandemic

At least one-third of Irish adults experience heartburn and many of these have seen a worsening of the condition during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.
According to the findings, 34% of people get heartburn, with 29% of these experiencing symptoms more than twice a week. Some 20% of those affected say the condition has worsened during the pandemic.
Heartburn occurs when gastric acid passes from the stomach back up into the oesophagus (food pipe) because the lower oesophageal sphincter has not closed tightly enough.
One of the main irritants in gastric acid is hydrochloric acid, which is a strong acid. The stomach has a special lining that prevents this acid from damaging it but the oesophagus has no such lining. Therefore when the gastric acid flows back into the oesophagus, the lining of it becomes inflamed due to the burning effect of the hydrochloric acid.
Typical symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling behind the breastbone and an acidic taste in the mouth.
According to this latest survey, the biggest triggers are eating rich or spicy foods, eating too much and stress.
Among those who say that their heartburn has worsened during the pandemic, the main reasons for this include COVID-related stress, increased snacking and work-related stress. The survey was carried out to coincide with Heartburn Awareness Week, which runs until October 25. The aim of this campaign is to increase awareness of the symptoms and triggers of the condition and to encourage those living with it to ask their pharmacist for advice.
The survey found that just 34% of people affected by heartburn had spoken to their pharmacist about managing the condition.
Former international and Munster rugby player, Mick Galwey, has been living with frequent heartburn "for years".
"It became so normal for me to ignore the burning pain. It wasn't until it started to keep me up at night that I decided to tackle the problem head on. I now know what my triggers are spicy food, coffee and stress, and thanks to my healthcare provider, I know how to manage my symptoms. I've finally got my heartburn under control," he explained.He encouraged people with heartburn to try to figure out what their triggers are and speak to their pharmacist for advice.
"We've all made a lot of sacrifices over the past number of months, and the uncertainty that we are all experiencing is only adding to daily stresses, increasing heartburn episodes for some.
"In spite of what's going on around us, it's time to try to enjoy the little pleasures in life again, order a takeaway with the family or enjoy your morning coffee without worrying about heartburn," he said.
Simple lifestyle changes like altering your diet, quitting smoking and exercising regularly can make a difference, but for those looking to control more frequent attacks, it is recommended that a pharmacist is consulted.
Heartburn Awareness Week is supported by GSK. The survey was carried out by iReach in the last week of September and involved 1,000 adults nationwide.