What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when acid or other stomach contents “reflux” into the esophagus, in medical terms, this is known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
The issue stems from the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a sphincer muscle between your food pipe and stomach is weak or relaxes at inappropriate times allowing acid backflow which results in heartburn. It can be described as a burning discomfort in the upper belly or below your breastbone.
Heartburns is a common symptom. It is often caused by overeating or there is too much pressure on your stomach due to constipation, obesity or pregnancy. Consuming spicy food or taking alcohol can also relax your LES too much or increase stomach acid.
The risk of heartburn is increased when there is a greater production of acid in the stomach caused by the foods we eat and drink such as acidic juices (orange, grapefruit, pineapples), acidic foods (tomatoes), caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and carbonated beverages. Over-the-counter medications also may precipitate heartburn.
Other factors include smoking and consumption of high-fat content or spicy foods, pregnancy, and obesity.
If you suffer from the occasional heartburn, you may find relief with over-the-counter such as antacid. Your doctor may prescribe a more powerful gastric medication known as proton pump inhibitor with combination of other medication to lower the acid in your stomach. They help to heal the esophageal lining. Other quick remedies include mixing baking soda with water, making ginger tea, taking licorice supplements, wearing loose clothing, and elevating your body during bedtime.
Seeing A Doctor For Heartburn
If you have persistent or recurrent reflux symptoms, you may consider to see a doctor.
Recurrent reflux disease can lead to narrowing or scarring of the esophagus and eventually cancer of the esophagus.
Share with your doctor or see a specialist in gastroenterology regarding your symptoms. He may begin with a history and physical examination to make a diagnosis of GERD and recommend treatment. He may carry out several tests needed to evaluate the underlying issue, and gastroscopy is often carried out for further evaluation. For refractory cases, specialized study such as 24-hour pH study may be carry out.
Lifestyle modification and dietary changes can also help in managing heartburn. A modest weight loss can have significant benefit in term of symptom improvement. Avoid eating heavily or eating within two hours of bedtime, or lying down soon after a meal. Cut down or stop eating certain known foods like fatty, fried and acidic foods, citrus juices and alcohol. As everyone reacts somewhat differently to specific foods, keep a food journal to keep track of what you eat, what time, any activity that worsened the condition and how long is the duration. This way, you can correlate the offending foods with heartburn incidents.