Every day, millions of people experience heartburn. This condition occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. While heartburn can be a minor annoyance, it can also signify a more serious problem. Understanding heartburn and how to treat it is crucial to understand what causes it.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn, also called acid reflux, is a burning sensation in your chest that often occurs after eating. It’s caused by stomach acid travelling up the esophagus and is typically an uncomfortable feeling that lasts for a few minutes to several hours.
The best way to relieve heartburn is to eat bland foods, drink fluids, and lay down.
If heartburn persists, it’s best to consult a doctor.
The causes of heartburn: what makes it happen
Heartburn is a common problem that affects many people. The most common symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest. This burning sensation is caused by stomach acid that flows back up into the esophagus.
The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. When stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, it can irritate and damage the esophagus lining.
It can cause a burning sensation in the chest and other symptoms, such as a sour taste in the mouth and difficulty swallowing.
Several things can increase your risk for heartburn. These things include smoking, being overweight, and eating large meals. Certain foods and drinks can trigger heartburn, including spicy foods, citrus fruits, and alcohol. Another common cause of heartburn is lying down after eating.
Foods that trigger heartburn
People eat many different foods every day that can trigger heartburn. One of the most common triggers is peppermint. Eating peppermint can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which can cause stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus.
Another food that can trigger heartburn is tomato sauce. The acidity in the sauce can cause problems for people with GERD. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, can also be a problem because of their acidic juices.
Chocolate and alcohol are both known to trigger heartburn because they relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea can also be a problem because they stimulate acid production in the stomach. Garlic and spicy foods are two other common triggers for heartburn.
Lifestyle habits that trigger heartburn
Many lifestyle habits can trigger heartburn. One of the most common is a high-impact exercise. Acid reflux occurs when you work your body hard, and your stomach responds with more acid. Such conditions can cause the acids to reflux into the esophagus and lead to heartburn symptoms.
Other triggers include eating too much or too quickly, lying down after eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, and being overweight.
If you have heartburn regularly, it’s essential to identify your triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
Medications that can cause heartburn
Some medications can cause heartburn by relaxing the valve between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
Other medications can cause heartburn by irritating the esophagus lining or causing indigestion.
Some of the most common medications that can cause heartburn include tetracycline antibiotics, bisphosphonates, iron supplements, quinidine, and ibuprofen.
If you are taking any of these medications and experience heartburn, talk to your doctor about whether a substitute medication would not cause this problem.
Treatment for heartburn
There are medicines called antacids that can help relieve heartburn. Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach.
Another type of medicine called an H2 receptor antagonist (H2RA) can help block the production of stomach acid. A proton pump inhibitor (PPI) is a medicine that blocks the production of stomach acid by the proton pump.
Lifestyle habits can also help relieve heartburn. Avoid eating large meals, and don’t lie down after you eat. If you smoke, stop smoking.
However, if your heartburn is severe and frequent, you should contact your healthcare provider. You may have chronic GERD if you experience this. Several extreme conditions can result from GERD, including esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and cancer.
If your doctor suspects underlying medication conditions, they may recommend an endoscopy. An endoscopy involves using a flexible, lighted instrument to examine your digestive tract.
When to go to ER about heartburn?
While heartburn can be a mild annoyance, it can be pretty severe and affect the quality of life for some people. In addition to frequent heartburn, several other symptoms may indicate that you need to visit an ER about your heartburn.
These include difficulty swallowing, a worse cough at night or hoarse voice, and sudden weight loss.
If you are experiencing diarrhea along with your heartburn, this is also an indication that you should seek medical help.