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Army June 21, 2012
HEARTBURN is a symptom
many people experience
but what a lot of people
may not know is lifestyle
change can often have quite an
impact on the condition.
According to the Digestive Health
Society of Australia, heartburn is the
main symptom of gastro-oesophageal
reflux disease (GORD) and is a com-
mon condition with up to one in five
adults experiencing heartburn once
Senior medical advisor Dr
Dorothy Coote, of JHC, said heart-
bur n was typically a burning sensa-
tion in the lower chest that tended to
rise up towards the throat during an
episode of ref lux or regurgitation.
"Other symptoms people can
often suffer are nausea, excessive
bu rping and chest pain," she said.
"GORD may be confused with
a heart attack and any person who
experiences undiagnosed chest pain
should seek medical attention in the
The diagnosis of GORD should
be made by a doctor.
Various tests can be done,
depending on the severity of the
Unlike some other illnesses,
GORD symptoms such as heart-
burn can be relieved with a range
of medication while diagnostic tests
Reflux: the burning facts
Cpl Nick Wiseman gets to the heart of a common problem.
Reduce consumption of fatty
and spicy foods
Get plenty of exercise
Eat smaller meals
Check any existing medica-
tions you take do not increase
heartburn, such as some anti-
Pregnancy can cause heartburn
but the symptoms will usually
resolve after the birth.
Two common tests for diagnosing
GORD are a breath test, which looks
for Helicobacter pylori, the organism
that has been found to cause stom-
ach ulcers, and a gastroscopy, which
looks for evidence of damage to the
lower oesophagus and abnor mal con-
ditions in the stomach using a camera.
Dr Coote said these tests might
not be conclusive for some people
with milder symptoms and often their
symptoms could be eased by simple
"Being just a few kilograms over-
weight can predispose you to having
GORD," she said.
"Other factors such as smoking
can also make GORD worse."
For some people, cutting out
things such as spicy foods, stopping
smoking, reducing alcohol and losing
weight can reduce or eliminate their
For those whose symptoms per-
sist, medications are available such
as proton pump inhibitors, which
suppress the amount of stomach
acid produced and reduce the risk of
heartburn and other symptoms.
Dr Coote said although the inhibi-
tors reduced stomach acid they did
not affect the normal function of the
"These medications are well toler-
ated," she said.
"Sometimes people may experi-
ence minor side effects but they are
usually insignificant compared to the
benefits from these medications."
Another remedy often used by
people experiencing heartburn is ant-
acids available from super markets or
These antacids neutralise acids that
have been secreted by the stomach and
are only useful in the short-term.
The best way to manage GORD
is to get medical advice, however,
lifestyle changes such as reducing
weight, stopping smoking and watch-
ing what you can eat will not only
reduce symptoms of the condition
but also lead to better longevity and
quality of life.
Graphic by Cpl Nick Wiseman
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