Call Your Doctor to Manage “Pandemic Stomach”
According to an article in the New York Times, current events are turning up the heat when it comes to heartburn. More Americans are using prescription and over-the-counter heartburn medicine to manage stress and reflux, resulting in nationwide shortages of acid reducers.
Why Are More Americans Getting Heartburn?
Physicians are noting more patients complaining of heartburn and acid reflux. Quarantine and stay-at-home restrictions have caused many people to turn to comfort food like alcohol and sweets, leading to heartburn. Poor eating habits and reduced exercise has also caused Americans to gain weight, another contributor to reflux.
Depression and anxiety are also on the rise. With stress due to COVID-19, job loss, remote learning and feelings of isolation, the general uncertainty about the future has taken its toll on Americans, causing a phenomenon known as “Pandemic Stomach.”
Benefits and Side Effects of Antacids
Antacids like Tums, Alka-Seltzer and Rolaids can help manage isolated episodes of heartburn, but they cannot treat long-term acid reflux symptoms. Overuse of antacids can cause side effects such as:
- Stomach cramps
- Metabolic changes
Further, acid-reducing drugs such as Pepcid, Zantac, and Prilosec may help manage reflux symptoms, but chronic use should only be considered under the direction of a physician, particularly a gastroenterologist.
Implement Healthy Habits to Replace Heartburn Medicine
Before reaching for an antacid or acid-reducer, try some of these natural remedies to soothe symptoms of reflux and heartburn:
- Watch your diet. Avoid foods that are spicy, acidic, fried or high in fat. Limit your intake of chocolate and caffeine.
- Eat small meals. Avoid overeating, and finish dinner at least two to three hours before bedtime to optimize digestion.
- Get daily exercise. Excess weight places pressure on the stomach and can cause acid reflux. Talk with your doctor about a healthy weight loss or weight maintenance plan to help you feel your best.
- Avoid heartburn triggers. Quit smoking and limit alcohol to special occasions.
- Try natural remedies. Talk with your doctor about natural therapies like ginger root, aloe vera and apple cider vinegar for digestive health.
Make an Appointment with Your GI Doctor
If you experience heartburn every week, it is time to take action and call your doctor. Your GI specialist can help find the source of your heartburn and help you find permanent relief.