Heartburn is that burning sensation in our throat or chest that occurs when stomach acid rises up from our stomach into the mouth. Heartburn is a common symptom of Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) also called Acid Reflux.
Heartburn is generally triggered by your diet. Heavy or fatty or spicy food can cause heartburn or acid reflux. Alcohol coffee, carbonated drinks, chocolate, and tomatoes can also cause heartburn. Smoking Obesity and medications for hypertension and cancer are the causes of heartburn too.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning pain felt often in the lower chest or upper abdomen and has nothing to do with your heart. It happens when stomach acid or food rises up into your food pipe, a pipe that connects your throat to your stomach.
Most people experience heartburn frequently, especially after having a large meal or some fried or fatty foods, foods like chocolate or alcohol. Heartburn is also common in women during pregnancy as the uterus grows to put pressure on the stomach.
Heartburn occurs when stomach’s acid backs up into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to your stomach. Generally, when we swallow food, a group of muscle around our lower esophageal sphincter (the bottom of the esophagus) relaxes to allow our food and liquid to flow down into the stomach. Then again, the muscle tightens.
Stomach acids, which releases to digest your food, can flow back (acid reflux) if the lower esophageal sphincter weakens or relaxes abnormally. This causes heartburn. The acid flow back can become worse if you are bent over or are lying down.
• A burning feeling or a feeling of warmth
• Chest pain that generally gets worse if you bend over or lie down
• Sour taste in the mouth
In most of the cases, heartburn is not serious. Your doctor may ask you to avoid some foods or taking over-the-counter medications, such as antacids to relieve your pain. However, in some cases, recurrent heartburn may be a symptom of a serious digestive disorder.
Certain foods and drinks can increase heartburn. These include:
• Spicy foods
• Tomato products like ketchup
• Citrus products
• Fried or fatty foods
• Large fatty meals
• Carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee including other caffeinated drinks
• Being pregnant or overweight can also raise your risk of heartburn
When to see a doctor
If you experience severe chest pain or pressure, seek your doctor’s help immediately, especially when it is combined with other symptoms like pain in the jaw or arm, or if you feel difficulty in breathing. Chest pain may also mean a heart attack.
Also, seek an appointment with your doctor if:
• You feel difficulty in swallowing
• Heartburn happens more than two times a week
• Symptoms continue despite using OTC (over-the-counter) medicines
• You experience persistent vomiting or nausea
• You have difficulty eating or lose weight owing to poor appetite
Heartburn that is more frequent and is interfering in your routine life may be considered as GERD (Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease). GERD, if not treated, can damage your esophagus seriously or cause Barrett’s esophagus, pre-cancerous changes in the esophagus. Treatment for GERD may need prescription medications and, sometimes, surgery or other procedures too.
Eat Less: Overeating may lead to the opening of the door between your stomach and food pipe, thus leading to the stomach acid to flow back causing heartburn
Proper Posture: Sleeping in a slumped body position may compress internal organs including your stomach. Sitting up or standing straight controls heartburn. If you want to fix it quickly, straighten your spine by moving your head gently towards the ceiling.
Wear Loose fitting clothes: Heartburn can aggravate if tight clothes constrict your abdomen. Loosen the belt of your trousers to get immediate relief.
Avoid Smoking: both active and passive smoking can be harmful if are suffering from heartburn.
Common tips that help prevent heartburn include staying away from spicy and fatty foods, eating at least three hours before sleep and abstaining from lying down immediately after eating. Another key to preventing heartburn is to maintain a healthy weight. And, it also helps if you are physically active regularly.