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ACID INDIGESTION, HEARTBURN, AND STOMACH ULCERS
Acid indigestion and ‘heartburn’ often come from eating too much heavy or greasy food or from drinking too much alcohol or coffee. These make the stomach produce extra acid, which causes discomfort or a ‘burning: feeling in the stomach or mid-chest. Some people mistake the chest pain, called ‘heartburn’, for a heart problem rather than indegestion. If the pain gets worse when lying down, it is probably heartburn.
Frequent or lasting acid indigestion is a warning sign of an ulcer.
An ulcer is a chronic sore in the stomach or small intestine, caused by too much acid. It may cause a chronic, dull (sometimes sharp) pain in the pit of the stomach. As with acid indigestion, often the pain lessens when the person eats food or drinks a lot of water. The pain usually gets worse an hour or more after eating, if the person misses a meal, or after he drinks alcohol or eats fatty or spicy foods. Pain is often worse at night. Without a special examination (endoscopy) it is often hard to know whether a person with frequent stomach pain has an ulcer or not.
If the ulcer is severe, it can cause vomiting, sometimes with fresh blood, or with digested blood that looks like coffee grounds. Stools with blood from an ulcer are usually black, like tar.
WARNING: Some ulcers are painless or ‘silent’, and the first sign is blood in vomit, or black, sticky stools. This is a medical emergency. The person can quickly bleed to death. GET MEDICAL HELP FAST.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT:
Whether stomach or chest pain is caused by heartburn, acud indigestion, or an ulcer, a few basic recommendations will probably help calm the pain and prevent it from coming back.
1. Do not eat too much. Eat small meals and eat frequent snacks between meals. Eat mainly foods that seem to calm and not cause pain.
2. Notice what foods or drinks make the pain worse and avoid them. These usually include alcoholic drinks, coffee, species, pepper, carbonated drinks (soda, pop, colas), and fatty or greasy foods.
3. If the heartburn is worse at night when lying flat, try sleeping with the upper body somewhat raised.