Experiencing heartburn while fasting can happen on occasion. You might think that in fasting, going without food for a long period of time would not cause digestive upset.
There are often instances where you may have noticed an uncomfortable feeling, a kind of burning sensation around your chest and throat, or nausea and vomiting. This condition is known as acidity and is an unfortunate side effect of fasting as it changes the balance of acid in your stomach.
People worldwide practice fasting as part of their diet plan. With the increasing popularity of intermittent fasting (IF) as a weight-loss tool, plenty more have begun to embrace the idea of going without food for extended periods.
However, like any other diet plan, especially one that can be sometimes strict and extreme as IF, it may have specific adverse effects.
Before going on your intermittent fasting journey, you must first understand how it affects your body and what negative consequences it may cause so that you may avoid them or respond appropriately when they do occur.
Read below to understand more about heartburn.
What Is Heartburn?
A burning feeling in your chest or throat is referred to as heartburn. Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, including GERD development (gastroesophageal reflux disease), acid indigestion, sour stomach, and dyspepsia.
Your stomach can produce excess amounts of stomach acid. When acid levels start to rise, the excess acid starts to leak into the esophagus, instead of staying in the stomach. When that happens, you feel an uncomfortable sensation in your chest or throat, and you may also feel a bitter taste in your mouth.
Heartburn can irritate the esophageal lining hence producing the discomfort, burning, or a sour taste at the back of your throat. This acid may cause you to choke or have difficulties swallowing. It may also cause hoarseness or coughing.
The discomfort is often worse after eating, in the evening, or when lying down or bending over.
Regular acid reflux sufferers may also have symptoms daily, such as a dry cough, disrupted sleep, or difficulty swallowing. Symptoms of heartburn vary and they can be either mild or severe.
The intensity of your heartburn may be determined by what you ate and how much you ate.
Intermittent Fasting And Heartburn
There is a study stating that there is weak statistical evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting reduces esophageal acid exposure1. The study also indicated that intermittent fasting can improve symptoms of both regurgitation and heartburn.
However, researchers in the study recommend that there is a need to do randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up times to determine if intermittent fasting has a role in the non-pharmacologic management of GERD.
For most people who practice intermittent fasting, they identify heartburn as a common side effect. This usually resolves itself in about a few minutes to a couple of hours, or even longer.
You can also manage the discomfort of heartburn on your own with lifestyle changes and nonprescription medications. However, if it gets more frequent or interferes with your daily routine, it may be a symptom of a more severe condition that requires medical care.
Many factors might trigger or increase heartburn. Heartburn is most frequent after overeating, sometimes indicated by a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. It may occur at night or as a pain that worsens when lying down or leaning over.
Heartburn can also be worsened by pregnancy, stress, and specific diets. Several kinds of medicine can be used to treat heartburn.
Antacids neutralize the acid that your stomach makes. For most people, antacids that you can get over the counter give fast, short-term relief.
You may need to try different medicines to find one that works best. However, if you use antacids too much, they can cause diarrhea or constipation.
Look for antacids that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. One causes constipation while the other causes diarrhea.
You don’t have to suffer from heartburn just because it’s expected. Regular acid reflux can lead to more significant health issues if left untreated. Other issues can progress to more severe problems such as strictures (narrowing or blockage of the esophagus), ulcers, cancers, and pneumonia.
Heartburn can be as painful as a heart attack, but generally it won’t come to be that severe. Unfortunately, the bitter or acidic taste at the back of your throat and the horrible sensation of food or liquid rushing back into your mouth and down the gullet is expected.
But here are certain actions you can do to help you manage and be aware of heartburn:
Heartburn Remedies Dos
1. Understand the causes of heartburn and GERD.
Acid reflux may come from time to time. However, when it repeatedly happens it can cause GERD.
You can manage to avoid mild heartburn with a few changes to your daily routine. Eat smaller meals and finish dinner at least three to four hours before bedtime. Try to avoid late-night snacks and don’t lie down after a meal.
2. Add more fiber to your diet.
Women should consume 25 grams daily, and men consume 38 grams. Although, if your fiber intake is significantly below these recommendations, it is advised to start slowly, and build up to these numbers, so you don’t trigger even more gastrointestinal discomfort.
Below are some easy ways to boost fiber intake:
- Swap processed foods for whole foods.
- Eat the apple instead of drinking juice.
- Cook brown rice or barley instead of yellow rice pilaf.
- Eat one small serving of whole grains with each meal.
- Enjoy a variety of at least 1.5 cups of fruits and 2.0 cups of vegetables every day.
- Add chickpeas, kidney beans, and other beans to soups and salads.
- Add dried fruit to muffin and pancake batter.
- Sprinkle a few nuts on salads.
- Mix wheat germ or ground flax seed into oatmeal.
3. Seek out a few particular foods.
A few specific fruits and vegetables serve as natural (and delicious) heartburn remedies.
Blackberries are go-to food because they contain compounds that help heal the esophagus.
Put carrots and kale on your list. Their beta-carotene and other nutrients can help repair acid-damaged tissue.
4. Less spicy food.
Spicy meals, tomato products, and citrus are said to cause heartburn. Try eliminating them from your diet for a week. Although, eliminating them deprives you of certain critical nutrients.
5. Lose weight.
Carrying excess weight increases abdominal pressure and puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
LES is a ring of muscle fibers that functions to close the opening between the esophagus and the stomach. When it is not functioning properly, the stomach contents (food, liquid, and stomach acid) move backward into the esophagus causing damage to the esophagus.
Hormones released by body fat might also cause some symptoms. This is because weight carries a risk in the abdominal area. Found inside your abdominal cavity, the visceral fat secretes inflammatory hormones that increase a person’s risk of developing GERD complications.
Heartburn Remedies Don’ts
1. Don’t spur up acid production.
Give off red and black pepper and coffee (even decaf) for a few weeks to see if it helps. Each has the potential to raise stomach acidity.
2. Don’t smoke.
Smoking inhibits the production of saliva, one of your body’s natural protective barriers against insults to the esophageal lining.
Smoking is a triple offender because it might also pump up acid production and weaken the LES.
3. Don’t eat after-dinner mints.
Avoid spearmint, peppermint, and other foods that reduce LES function. They release hormones or alter chemical pathways, enabling the sphincter to relax and food to flow backward.
4. Don’t wear tight clothing.
When eating a huge meal, don’t wear or squeeze into too-tight clothes. This raises abdominal pressure.
5. Don’t eat before bed.
There will be no lying down before digesting your meal. Eat for at least 2-3 hours before sleeping.
Try a bedtime routine such as raising the head of the bed by 6 inches, use an under-mattress foam wedge.You need to elevate your torso so as not to completely lie down.
6. Don’t count on milk to placate your stomach.
Other heartburn cures are ancient wives’ tales. Drinking milk for instance actually leads your stomach to produce more acid. Many factors, including protein in milk and other meals, boost acid production.
You’ll be disappointed if you expect milk fat to ease you. The stomach’s water-soluble environment prevents fat from physically “coating” it.
7. Don’t hesitate to seek medical help.
Untreated GERD can lead to major significant complications such as bleeding, swallowing difficulties, esophageal blockage, malignancy, shortness of breath, and throat hoarseness.
Aside from lifestyle changes, your doctor might recommend prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Initially, some medications won’t always ease your agony. You’ll need to confirm with your doctor to consider other possible drugs you could ingest that could help you.
Experiencing Heartburn While Fasting
Intermittent fasting can both help and worsen acid reflux. Avoid acid reflux during fasting by making gradual adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
After a heavy or fatty meal, you may have experienced gastroesophageal reflux symptoms such as the burning sensation or soreness in the throat and chest, food repeating itself and coming back up, or even vomiting. While most individuals have heartburn occasionally, if it occurs more than once a week, you may have GERD and will require medication or other therapy.Since GERD is a more severe form of GER, doctors will diagnose GERD when acid reflux becomes a recurrent complaint from an individual.
Whichever method of intermittent fasting you pick, you will be going without food for hours at a time, or for days if you choose a longer or extended fast. When you fast, your stomach is empty, but it continues to produce the digestive acids needed to break down food.
Since there is no food to absorb the acid usually produced during digestion, stomach acid levels begin to increase. This extra acid begins to leak into the esophagus, creating pain and a burning sensation in the chest and neck.
There is, however, a potential for fasting to aid in experiencing less severe GERD symptoms, as expressed in a study done on 103 participants2. Additionally, over time your body will likely have adjusted to an acid imbalance from fasting, mainly if you make some adjustments to your nutrition.
Recap To Avoiding Acid Reflux And Heartburn Triggers
Knowing your triggers is the best way to help you deal with acid reflux when fasting. Including a simple lifestyle and nutritional changes, you can aid in reducing mild or occasional cases of acid reflux incidents during your fast.
Here are further suggestions and a rundown to help guide you in lowering the risk of heartburn and its difficulties during fasting:
As you already know, fasting leads to an increase in stomach acidity. It is critical to change your food consumption and include enough essential nutrients for your body in your eating window such as carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and fiber.
Processed, greasy, deep-fried, spicy, sour, salty, caffeinated, and acid-containing meals are a few common triggers you should strive to avoid. This is because certain meals tend to irritate your digestive tract.
Remember that moderation is essential and that each person’s motivation is different. Reduce your sugar intake as well since sugar turns to fat, and it can lead to weight gain and an increase in cholesterol levels. It can also cause acid reflux regularly and slow digestion.
Eat Slowly and Mindfully
When you eat, chew slowly and adequately so that fewer stomach acids are needed to digest your meal. This is easier on your stomach and as a bonus, you’ll manage to eat less. Note that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full.
Eating quickly also leads you to swallow air while eating, which causes bloating. Put moderate servings on your plate to restrict your food intake, especially while breaking fast.
Even fasting requires a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day. Constantly drink water both during your fasting and eating window.
Drink in particular alkaline water and warm water which can help settle the stomach. You are to avoid added components in your drink, such as lemon, because they may cause some discomfort.
Having water before your rest for the night also helps your body to balance fluid levels for the following day. Remember to drink while sitting up straight and never while lying down or slouching.
Keep in mind that large quantities of water may mislead the stomach into thinking it’s complete and release acid.
If you are on long-term medicine, you should consult your doctor about your medication arrangements throughout your diet plans.
If necessary, continue to use over-the-counter drugs such as antacids, antihistamines, and proton pump inhibitors. These can lower stomach acid production, preventing bloating, gastric reflux, and heartburn.
If the discomfort is excessive, break your fast and take the appropriate medication.
Most people have mild to moderate acid reflux at some point in their lives. When this occurs many times each week, it might lead to more significant intestinal issues.
Acid reflux symptoms may occur when you are fasting since an empty stomach continues to create the acids it normally requires for digesting. Because there is nothing to digest, stomach acid levels rise and pour into the esophagus, producing pain, irritation, and a burning sensation.
Intermittent fasting can help with acid reflux in some cases because it decreases blood sugar levels, which then increases the rate at which the stomach empties. Intermittent fasting also reduces insulin resistance, which leads to weight reduction.
Both can help with GERD symptoms. Making small lifestyle and dietary changes can help you avoid acid reflux when fasting.
Heartburn is normal especially when you are engaged in an activity such as overeating or even during your fasting. It is usually not a cause for concern when the heartburn persists for a period of 24-hours or more.
Lengthy experience with heartburn does not yet qualify as acid reflux disease. If you are cautious enough of what you eat and avoid certain triggers (diet and lifestyle habits), you may be able to prevent heartburn or manage it. However, if you find that you frequently experience heartburn and that it keeps getting worse, it could be a sign of a medical condition like GERD.
In this case, your heartburn will not go away without treatment. Contact your healthcare professional straightway so that you can devise a treatment plan and know how best to proceed with your intermittent fasting journey.
1 Jiang, Yan MD, MS1; Goodman, Steven MD, PhD2; Sonu, Irene MD2; Garcia, Patricia MD2; Fernandez-Becker, Nielsen MD, PhD2; Kamal, Afrin MD2; Zikos, Thomas MD2; Singh, Sundeep MD3; Neshatian, Lelia MD, MSc4; Triadafilopoulos, George MD, FACG2; Clarke, John MD2. S485 The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The American Journal of Gastroenterology: October 2021 – Volume 116 – Issue – p S214
2 Mardhiyah R, Makmun D, Syam AF, Setiati S. The Effects of Ramadhan Fasting on Clinical Symptoms in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Acta Med Indones. 2016 Jul;48(3):169-174. PMID: 27840350.