Even though water is good for us and is essential for survival and healthy living, the truth of the matter is that drinking water can cause acidity or heartburn, especially in those that are prone to the affliction. For example, people with hiatal hernias or acid reflux have difficulty eating or drinking anything without symptoms of heartburn. Sometimes these symptoms can be severe, but there are ways to help avoid these attacks when drinking water.
What Causes Heartburn
Heartburn is caused when acid from the stomach escapes and travels up the esophagus. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not work as it should. The LES acts as a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. It opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and then should remain closed, keeping the acid where it belongs. When the stomach is distended (full), the stomach produces more acid for digestion. If the stomach is too full, the LES may be forced open, allowing acidic fluid to flow into the esophagus causing the pain of heartburn.
Drinking Water and Heartburn
There are a couple of reasons why drinking water can cause heartburn. If your stomach still has food in it from a previous meal, drinking water will fill the stomach even more, causing it distend and produce more acid. The water mixes with the acid in your stomach, creating an acidic liquid that can easily travel up the esophagus if the LES opens momentarily due to the stomach's fullness. The second reason drinking water causes heartburn happens on an empty stomach. Drinking large amounts of water on an empty stomach works the same way as filling it will food. The stomach doesn't differentiate between food and drink. When it begins to get full, it produces more acid. The same scenario happens as with eating large amounts of food. Pressure on the LES will cause it to open giving the acidic liquid a chance to travel up the esophagus.
Recommendations for Dealing With Water-Induced Heartburn
To help prevent heartburn before drinking water, take an antacid. This will help keep the acid levels in your stomach down and prevent heartburn before it starts. Don't drink large amounts of water at one time. Sip it rather than gulping it. Your stomach will handle the smaller amounts without producing much acid. Don't drink water right before, during, or right after a meal. Drink it in between meals when your stomach is empty. Cold water can cause esophageal spasms, which in turn causes the LES to open. Drink room temperature water or even warm water to help avoid heartburn. Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing around your stomach puts pressure on it and will cause the LES to open when it shouldn't. Drinking water only aggravates the situation. Lastly, losing weight is a great way to alleviate the symptoms of heartburn, whether caused by drinking water or otherwise. It is a healthy decision all the way around.
Seek Medical Attention
If all else fails and you still suffer the effects of heartburn when drinking water, talk to your doctor. There may be something bigger going on inside that needs looked at. Prolonged exposure to stomach acid can cause irreparable damage to the esophagus, throat and vocal chords. Most of the time, doctors will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms, but sometimes surgery is recommended to repair the problem.