The arrival of warmer weather determines an increase in digestion-related disorders, such as gastroesophogeal reflux, gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. Why does this happen, and how can you protect yourself against it? Two Humanitas specialists spoke about this in an interview. Professor Alessandro Repici, supervisor of endoscopy, and Doctor Gianluca Lollo, gastroenterologist.

Heartburn (gastric pyrosis) is more intense in spring. There is an increase in the acids produced by the stomach walls and in particular, in hydrochloric acid. This depends on a primitive condition, when food was difficult to find during winter and thus the body secreted less gastric acids. In fact, given that they were not used to digest food, they would only have damaged the stomach walls.

In spring, the increased daylight activates the formation of the hormone cortisol. However, the increase in its production hinders the intestinal peristaltism. Τhat is, the involuntary movements of the mucous membrane in the stomach and in the intestine, that favour digestion. Cortisol, also predisposes people to anxiety and mood swings, that sometimes lead to loss of appetite and dyspepsia.

For many people, digestive issues and heartburn also depend on bad winter habits, such as a sedentary lifestyle, a sloppy nutrition with many foods rich in fats, too much coffee, smoking. These conditions may irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach, making it sensitive to gastric acids.

Start from your nutrition

You should pay attention to what you eat, in order to fight heartburn and stomach aches. First of all, you should reduce your consumption of animal-derived fats such as butter, eggs, dairy and fat meats. Also avoid sausages, elaborate dishes, spicy foods, fried foods, cakes with whipped cream, and ready meals (rich in salt and preservatives). Pay attention to chocolate, licorice, mint, coffee, alcoholic drinks, tomatoes and also citrus fruit, such as lemons and oranges.

You should prefer cereals such as rice and brown pasta (whose fiber helps digestion), dressed with oil and vegetables (apart from tomatoes, that are acidic). White meat and fish are great if baked or steamed with herbs and vegetables. You should only eat raw fruit, but you may cook it if it is too acidic for you.

You should also exercise. Power walking, foot racing, riding a bike or running lightly for half an hour every day helps you digest, because it affects positively your intestinal peristaltism, it helps you relieve stress and increases your caloric expenditure.

If you suffer from digestive issues for more than a few days, you may ask your physician or pharmacist for help. They will prescribe you anti-acids with sodium bicarbonate and citric acid, calcium carbonate, or magnesium.

If the symptoms last for a week, you should instead go to a gastroenterologist.