What You Need to Know About Heartburn
Heartburn is a medical condition that affects many people worldwide. It is indigestion that causes a burning sensation in the chest and throat. The pain and discomfort can be quite severe and can even mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. In this article, we will discuss what heartburn is, its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is indigestion that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. The oesophagus is long tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach. When acid from the stomach flows back into the oesophagus, it causes irritation and inflammation, leading to a burning sensation in the chest and throat. The burning sensation is often described as a feeling of heat or pressure in the chest and may be accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth or throat.
Causes of Heartburn
The main cause of heartburn is the reflux of stomach acid into the oesophagus. However, several factors can increase the likelihood of developing heartburn. Some of these include:
Overeating: Eating large meals can increase pressure in the stomach and force acid back into the oesophagus.
Eating before bedtime: Lying down after eating can cause stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus, leading to heartburn.
Eating certain foods: Foods that are high in fat, spice, or acidity can trigger heartburn. Examples include citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol.
Being overweight or obese: Extra weight around the abdomen can increase pressure on the stomach, forcing acid back into the oesophagus.
Smoking: Smoking can weaken the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing acid to flow back into the oesophagus.
Pregnancy: The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can relax the valve between the oesophagus and stomach, leading to heartburn.
Symptoms of Heartburn
The main symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest and throat. However, other symptoms may accompany heartburn, including:
Regurgitation: The feeling of acid or food coming back up into the mouth or throat.
Sour taste in the mouth: This can occur when acid from the stomach enters the mouth.
Difficulty swallowing: This may occur if the oesophagus becomes inflamed or if the muscles that control swallowing are affected.
Hoarseness or sore throat: These symptoms may occur if acid from the stomach irritates the throat.
Chest pain: This may be mistaken for the pain associated with a heart attack.
Treatment of Heartburn
Treatment of heartburn depends on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. In most cases, heartburn can be treated with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. However, if symptoms persist or are severe, prescription medications may be necessary.
Making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the frequency and severity of heartburn. Some of these changes include:
Eating smaller meals: Eating smaller meals can reduce pressure on the stomach, preventing acid from flowing back into the oesophagus.
Avoiding trigger foods: Avoiding foods that trigger heartburn, such as spicy or acidic foods, can help reduce symptoms.
Losing weight: Losing weight can reduce pressure on the stomach and decrease the likelihood of acid reflux.
Sleeping with the head elevated: Sleeping with the head elevated can help prevent acid from flowing back into the oesophagus.
Quitting smoking: Quitting smoking can help improve the function of the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach.
Several over-the-counter medications can help reduce the symptoms of heartburn.
Heartburn is a common and painful condition that many people experience. It is important to understand the causes of heartburn, how to identify it and what treatments are available. While some lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of heartburn, if they don’t work, speaking to your doctor about medications can be helpful. Knowing what you need to know about heartburn can help you take steps towards managing your own condition.