MORE THAN A year into the pandemic, many people have grown used to a new lockdown lifestyle: staying home, exercising less and eating more—all while experiencing greater levels of stress and anxiety.
“All of this contributes to worsening gut function,” says Christopher Andrews, the lead physician at the Calgary Gut Motility Centre, adding that heartburn is on the rise. Some experts have even given the trend a name—“pandemic stomach”—and last December there was a temporary shortage of antacid medication in the United States.
Heartburn, a fiery sensation in the chest or upper belly, is the painful effect of the stomach’s acid and digestive enzymes creeping into the esophagus. When you swallow food or liquid, your esophageal sphincter, the muscle around the bottom of your esophagus, relaxes to allow the contents to move down, then closes to prevent backup. But if that muscle weakens or is unable to close completely, stomach acid might rise, causing irritation.
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