Heart burn, locally loosely translated as ‘Ikirungurira’, is the painful sensation one experiences when there is too much gas or acid from the stomach to the food pipe of the human body.
Experts explain that it is triggered when there is painful sensation in the stomach, more especially when there is reflux of food or acid from the stomach into the esophagus or food pipe.
According to Dr Jean D’amour Mutabazi of Centre Medical ORKIDE in Kigali, heart burns are among the signs of stomach ulcers which could later result into stomach cancer if early treatment is not sought.
He says when someone eats food, the body releases enzymes that break down food particles and in due process heart burn develops as a result of insufficiency of the acids called chlorolidic acids in the stomach that helps to break down the food particles.
He says default in the opening of the cardiac opening (esophagus) characterised by gases in the stomach is also among the causes.
Dr Stephen Musiime of Great Lakes Medical Consortium and Research Center Hospital, Kigali, says taking simple meals at short intervals could be a solution.
He warns that taking a heavy meal randomly at one time could worsen the situation due to the fact that there are acids secreted in the protective lining of the stomach and are not neutralised leading to unnecessary opening of the diaphragm, causing a heart burn.
Musiime says taking hot milk intermittently is also very useful for people suffering from heart burn as milk neutralises the acid from the stomach.
Dr Charles Nuwagaba, a pediatrician at Pro-Femme Twese Hamwe, Kigali, says one of the factors that could cause heart burns is the excessive consumption of oil cooked foods with high sugar contents which makes digestion and breaking down of the food particles difficult.
He adds that heart burns antacids (the drugs neutralise the acid of the stomach) can be used to provide some relief.
Nuwagaba, however, advises that these drugs should not be used for a long time. This is because if antacids are used for long time there are tendencies that the medicine will mask underlying diseases in the body.
He adds that these antacids tablets or syrups tend to cause constipation as a side-effect.
According to Dr Private Kamanzi of Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Kigali, taking enough water is also advisable as water acts as both a lubricant and remedy to neutralise acid in the stomach secreted by the body from food during digestion.
He says water helps in digestion and has many health benefits including preventing heart burns.
Kamanzi says that over eating, especially when one is going to sleep at night, increases the risk of heart burns.
He adds that alcohol intake should be avoided as it increases direct damage to the gastric mucosa.
“Excessive alcohol taking relaxes the esophageal sphincter causing the acid to creep into the esophagus leading to heart burns, so this has to be avoided,” says Kamanzi.