Former International and Munster rugby player, and frequent heartburn sufferer, Mick Galwey pictured at the launch of Heartburn Awareness Week, supported by GSK. (Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

New research released this week by iReach to coincide with the launch of Heartburn Awareness Week, October 19 – 25, has found that more than a third (34%) of the population are living with heartburn.

Now in its sixth year, the campaign, supported by GSK, aims to raise awareness of the symptoms and triggers of heartburn and encourage those living with frequent or occasional attacks to speak to their pharmacist about controlling the condition.

The research, carried out among 1,000 Irish adults, also found that 29% of Irish people living with heartburn experience attacks frequently with symptoms occurring more than twice a week.

The biggest triggers of heartburn for those living with the condition in Ireland are: eating rich or spicy foods (54%); eating too much (34%); and stress (31%).

Unfortunately, for those living with the condition, one in five (20%) confirmed that their heartburn has worsened since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reasons cited for this included; Covid-19 related stress (51%); increased snacking (35%); and work related stress (25%).

Former International and Munster rugby player, and frequent heartburn sufferer, Mick Galwey, explained why he is involved in this year’s campaign.

Mick said: “I’ve been living with frequent heartburn for years, it became so normal for me to ignore the burning pain. It wasn’t until it started to keep me up at night that I decided to tackle the problem head on.

“I now know what my triggers are; spicy food, coffee and stress, and thanks to my healthcare provider, I know how to manage my symptoms. I’ve finally got my heartburn under control.

“I want to encourage those living with the condition to take a stand this week – figure out what your triggers are and speak to your pharmacist. We’ve all made a lot of sacrifices over the past number of months, and the uncertainty that we are all experiencing is only adding to daily stresses, increasing heartburn episodes for some.

“In spite of what’s going on around us, it’s time to try to enjoy the little pleasures in life again, order a takeaway with the family or enjoy your morning coffee without worrying about heartburn.”

Despite the condition affecting so many, only a third (34%) said that they had spoken to their pharmacist about managing their symptoms. Making simple lifestyle changes like; reviewing diet, quitting smoking and taking regular exercise can make a difference, but for those looking to control more frequent attacks it is recommended that a pharmacist is consulted.

The campaign is urging those who’ve yet to seek support to speak to their pharmacist this week about how they can make life without heartburn their new normal.