All You Need To Know About Heartburn

Heartburn is a common condition that most people have experienced more than once in their lifetime. A study estimates that approximately more than 15 million Americans suffer from heartburn every day. Heartburn is also associated with stomach acidity. There can be many causes for it, but frequent occurrences of a heartburn can lead to other problems.

What is a heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning sensation that starts in the middle of the chest, below the breastbone. It is caused by stomach contents flowing back up your esophagus, a pipe that connects your throat to your stomach. It is also referred to as the food pipe as it carries the food you eat.

The connecting point of the esophagus and the stomach is called the lower esophageal sphincter or cardiac sphincter. Normally, this sphincter closes when the food leaves the pipe and enters the stomach. In some cases, the sphincter does not function properly. This increases the chances of a backflow from the guts to the food pipe.

This backflow does not contain just food, it also contains stomach acids. This flow of stomach contents back to the esophagus is known as a reflux or acid reflux. Stomach acids irritate the esophagus and cause the burning sensation you experience as heartburn.

Common heartburn symptoms
The most common heartburn symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and a burning sensation in the chest
  • You feel fluid at the back of your throat that feels hot and sour
  • You may feel an acid, burning pain in your throat
  • Pain begins at the center of your chest below the breastbone
  • Sometimes, it may radiate up to your neck
  • Symptoms are often experienced after a meal, when you bend down or lie on your back

Similarities between heart attack and heartburn symptoms
You should never ignore heartburn symptoms. Ensure to observe them carefully. This is because heartburn symptoms closely resemble the signs of a heart attack. It is time to call your doctor or visit a hospital when the heartburn symptoms you experience include:

  • Severe chest pain that radiates to your back, neck, left shoulder, and your jaws
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Pain that persists and does not respond to antacids and other normal heartburn medicines
  • Pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and a cold sweat

While heartburn could also cause most of these problems, it is better to be safe and call for medical help if you experience the above symptoms.

Frequent heartburn and complications
While occasional heartburn can be triggered by a rich meal or other causes, if you suffer from heartburn more frequently, consult your doctor. It could be an indication of a deeper problem such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or stomach ulcer. In such cases, heartburn itself is a symptom.

Indications that you may have a more severe problem include:

  • Frequent heartburn
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Pain while swallowing food
  • Blood in stools
  • Long-term cough and sore throat
  • Symptoms do not respond as quickly as before to antacids and other regular heartburn treatments

Causes of heartburn and acidity

  • Obesity
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lying down immediately after a full meal

Heartburn remedial measures
Follow a healthy diet and limit or eliminate oily foods and sweets in your diet. Exercise regularly to keep yourself in shape and reduce the chances of obesity. Regularize your eating habit. While overindulgence can be a big problem, skipping meals, and trying to compensate with carbonated drinks and fried snacks. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol consumption if you are prone to heartburn.

Eliminate fatty foods and consume more vegetables, lean meats, and fish. If you are obese, try to drop a few pounds. Pregnancy makes women more vulnerable to heartburn. So, while you are pregnant, eat less of spicy and fried foods. Never lie down immediately after a meal.

Trying to go without a meal for a long time leads to an increase in the level of acidity in your stomach. Without food to digest, the acid may soon start eating away the lining of your stomach, leaving you more vulnerable to other conditions such as ulcers.

Instead of three large meals a day, try eating six small healthy meals at regular intervals till you have your acidity under control. Curd, yogurt, and milk may help calm your stomach.

While you are suffering from acidity, don’t lie down flat. Use a headboard under the upper half of your bed, multiple pillows, or other means to create a gentle downward slope from your head when you lie down.

Heartburn can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. If left untreated, it can lead to more severe issues such as stomach ulcer and GERD. Follow a healthy diet and regularize your eating pattern. Don’t overindulge in fried foods and carbonated drinks. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Take antacids to control the condition and consult your doctor on other treatments. Lead a healthy lifestyle to eliminate heartburn and other gastric problems.

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