When you have burning pain in the chest, you want quick relief. The easiest would be to gulp down some water to relieve the burning sensation. Does drinking water help heartburn? Or does it make it worse? What measures do you need to take to relieve heartburn?
Does Drinking Water Help Heartburn?
Heartburn is a painful condition, presenting with burning pain in the chest or behind the sternum. It is often caused by acid reflux, with a sour taste in the mouth, nausea, and hoarseness of voice. While some factors worsen the symptoms, some help to relieve them. Does drinking water help heartburn? This is a commonly discussed question that needs to be considered for better management of heartburn.
Heartburn is most often caused due to acid reflux or gastroesophageal acid reflux (GERD). In this condition, the acid in the stomach regurgitates back to the esophagus through the opening (lower esophageal sphincter), which normally remains closed to prevent the backflow. The backflow of acid into the esophagus causes burning pain in the chest region. The acid content in the stomach is too high and the acid contents that regurgitate to the esophagus result in irritation, pain, and burning.
What Do Research Studies Say about Drinking Water for Heartburn?
Some studies were conducted to evaluate the effects of administration of water, antacids, and other medicines on the gastric pH, which defines the acid levels in the stomach. The study was conducted where the subjects were given a glass of water (200 ml), antacid, ranitidine, omeprazole, esomeprazole, and rabeprazole in each study. Further, the gastric pH was recorded after six hours of drug intake. It was noticed that water increased the gastric pH > 4 in 10 out of 12 subjects after 1 min and lasted for 3 min. Whereas, the same pH >4 was achieved with antacids after 2 min and lasted for 15 min, ranitidine after 50 min, and more for other drugs. This concluded that water immediately increased gastric pH, followed by antacids, while proton pump inhibitor drugs showed delayed but prolonged effect. This study showed the effectiveness of medicines in reducing the effect of acid levels. It can also be concluded that water can offer temporary but immediate effect on raising the pH values thus reducing the acid levels.1
This can help in relieving symptoms of heartburn for a while, which explains that drinking water can help heartburn to some extent by increasing the gastric pH. Simply said, it helps dilute the acid and neutralizes it, while also helps to clear the acid from the esophagus. This supports the discussion regarding whether drinking water helps heartburn.
Some studies have reported that drinking water can help in relieving heartburn related symptoms and in the management of acid reflux. Chronic cough is often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), due to the irritation at the back of the throat. It is more often related to the ineffective motility of the esophagus. A study report suggests that frequent sips of water can help in refractory cough caused in people having acid reflux and heartburn.2
- Sips of water can help in resolving refractory cough by the following possible mechanisms
- Sips of water create a foreign sensation and control cough reflux
- It breaks the paroxysm of cough and decreases gastroesophageal reflux that results from recurrent cough
- It improves the clearance of lower esophageal refluxed contents thus inhibiting LES stimulation-induced cough
- It helps in clearing thick viscous salivary and pharyngeal secretions thus reducing throat irritation and heartburn.
Thus, it can be concluded that frequent sips of water can help in clearing off the acid contents from the esophagus, and relieve symptoms of refractory cough as well as heartburn. This too makes it clear that drinking water helps heartburn.
People often feel the need to have something cool and soothing to manage the burning sensation in the throat and heartburn. But having cold drinks, carbonated beverages can only worsen the condition. This can cause burping and push more acid into the esophagus causing more heartburn. It is advised to drink pain water instead of sparkling water or any other carbonated drinks, to relieve heartburn.3
Alcohol too is a stimulant and can cause more irritation of the throat worsening heartburn, hence best avoided. A study conducted among healthy volunteers showed an increase in reflux episodes after ingesting beer or wine as compared to water.4
For most people, gastric troubles also include affected gastric motility, indigestion, bloating, and constipation. These conditions too can increase the risk of acid reflux and heartburn, hence managing them is equally important. Water can also help by improving the bowel movements, which helps relieve constipation. Better bowel motility clears off the gut and also reduces the abdominal pressure, which can relieve the complaints of acid reflux and heartburn.
Water also helps to relieve the sour taste and burning sensation at the back of the mouth. This is a commonly associated complaint with heartburn and acid reflux. So drinking water in sips can help reduce the associated symptoms of heartburn for some time, in most cases.
What Should You Do in The Event of Heartburn?
Drinking water can help heartburn. However, it is also important to note that drinking fluids in large quantities can even worsen water brash and cause more trouble. Heartburn, which is mostly due to acid reflux and backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, can get aggravated with too many fluids in the stomach. Certain fluids like stimulating beverages, carbonated drinks, fatty or high-calorie drinks like milkshakes, or cream-based drinks can increase the risk of regurgitation. Similarly, excess intake of water, certain postures, and bending forward or lying down soon after having food or drinks too can increase the risk of aid reflux and heartburn. Instead, having water in sips, small quantities at frequent intervals may be helpful.
Also, it is advisable to:
- Have small amounts of food at regular intervals
- Drink small quantities of water at once
- Avoid food triggers, sour foods, heavy or spicy meals
- Avoid sleeping or bending soon after the meals
- Raise the head level when sleeping or rest in a reclining position
Thus, it is clear that drinking water can help heartburn in some cases. But it is best taken in small quantities and in sips to help dilution of the acid content. Also, other factors influence acid reflux and heartburn, hence those should also be managed. If these simple measures does not offer relief, it is necessary to get evaluated and treated appropriately.
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