A symptom we have likely all experienced to varying degrees. Heartburn is a burning feeling in the lower chest or upper abdomen, with a sour bitter taste in the mouth and throat. This usually occurs shortly after eating a large meal or lying down.
What causes heartburn?
Each bite of food is passed from the mouth down a tube called the esophagus. The food must pass through a door called the lower esophageal sphincter to enter the stomach. Usually this door or sphincter closes as soon as the food passes through. However, if it does not fully close, acid produced in the stomach can get through the opening and into the esophagus. This process is called reflux. This acid can be very irritating to the esophagus.
What factors add to heartburn?
- Bending over
- Lying down
- Certain foods
What can trigger heartburn?
- Cigarette smoking
- Coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and other drinks that contain caffeine
- Soft drinks
- Citrus fruits
- Tomato products
- Chocolate, mints, or peppermints
- Fatty or spicy foods (such as pizza, chili, and curry)
- Lying down too soon after eating
- Being overweight or obese
- Aspirin or ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin)
- Certain medicines (such as sedatives and some medicines for high blood pressure)
Can heartburn be serious?
Most cases are not serious and occur infrequently. Frequent heartburn can cause lasting inflammation and erosion of the lining of the esophagus. Persistent inflammation can result in narrowing of the esophagus and difficulty narrowing.
If you get more than occasional heartburn, `it may be a symptom of acid reflux disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an inflamed stomach lining (gastritis), hiatal hernia, or peptic ulcer.
What is hiatal hernia?
This is a condition in which part of the stomach is pushed up through the diaphragm (the muscle wall between the stomach and chest) and into the chest. This can often result in heartburn as the acid in the stomach can reach the esophagus much easier.
How do I prevent heartburn?
- Do not eat within 3 hours of sleeping to allow food to pass through the stomach and into the intestines.
- Place 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed to raise it.
- Avoid smoking.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Don’t overeat.
- Eat high-protein, low-fat meals.
- Avoid tight clothes and tight belts.
- Avoid foods and or other behaviors that give you heartburn.
Will antacids take care of heartburn?
Generally, over-the-counter antacids provide fast relief that is short term. Overuse however can result in constipation or diarrhea. Antacids with magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide are best. Some examples of antacids include Maalox and Mylanta.
What about medicines for heartburn?
Histamine blockers can reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach, reducing symptoms of heartburn as well. Some over-the-counter medications include Zantac and Pepcid.
Is heartburn associated with heart attacks?
No. But sometimes pain in the chest may be mistaken for heartburn when it’s really a sign of heart disease.
When to see your doctor:
- Persistent or frequent heartburn episodes that may be a sign of a more severe illness such as acid reflux, gastritis, gastric ulcer or esophagitis. You should see a doctor if:
- You have trouble or pain when swallowing
- You’re vomiting blood.
- Your stools are bloody or black.
- You’re short of breath.
- You’re dizzy or lightheaded.
- You have pain going into your neck and shoulder.
- You break out in a sweat when you have pain in your chest.
- You have heartburn more than three times a week for more than two weeks.
At Life Savers Emergency Room, we are fully equipped to diagnose appendicitis with our on site laboratory and CT scanner. We have radiology services on call 24/7 as well as surgical specialists on call for your care. Give us call on 8327795433.