Swallowing and Stomach Problems
Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
Swallowing is a complicated reflex action that we usually take for granted. Difficulty swallowing may be caused by many things and can cause distress to some people living with a terminal illness. It is important to tell your doctor if you have any difficulty swallowing and you may be referred to a speech therapist or dietician in your area.
Heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone that can be very painful. It’s caused by the backflow of acid from the stomach into the gullet (oesophagus) and can be set off by certain foods and medicines. It can be made worse by lying flat or wearing tight clothing around the waist. Tips to prevent heartburn
- Avoid large meals, chocolate, alcohol, fatty foods, fizzy drinks, chewing gum, hard-boiled sweets, mint, aniseed and dill.
- Wear loose clothing around your waist.
- Try not to lie flat on your back, especially after meals.
Drug treatments can also help relieve troublesome heartburn. Your GP can prescribe these for you.
This is discomfort in the upper part of the tummy (abdomen), occurring particularly after meals. It can be caused by:
- Having a small stomach capacity
- Irritation of the stomach or bowel lining caused by some drugs (such as steroids)
- Overproduction of stomach acid
- Not moving around much
- Not eating or drinking much.
Hiccups are a sudden contraction or spasm of the diaphragm (the breathing muscle under the lungs). They’re a reflex action, so they aren’t under your control. Mild hiccups are common. They usually last for only a few minutes and don’t need to be treated. However, if you have hiccups that keep coming back or that last for more than two days, you may need treatment. When hiccups last for a long time it can be distressing and uncomfortable. It can also make eating, drinking and sleeping difficult.
Treatment for hiccups
Some people find that home remedies can help them get rid of hiccups more quickly. These include:
- Sipping iced water or swallowing crushed ice
- Holding your breath
- Breathing into a paper bag
- Drinking from the wrong (opposite) side of a cup
- Quickly swallowing two teaspoons of granulated sugar
- Biting on a lemon
If your hiccups don’t go away after a couple of days or if they keep coming back, you should tell your doctor.