Heartburn is a sensation of burning in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus (food pipe)
The burning can worsen or can be brought on by lying flat or on the right side.
Causes of heartburn
The esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to the stomach) has a tight band of muscles at the lower end (lower esophageal sphincter [LES])
that closes after the food enters the stomach and prevents the stomach contents to re-enter the esophagus.
If this sphincter weakens or relaxes at the wrong time, stomach acid can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
Foods and beverages which aggravate heartburn
· Alcohol: Alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
· Coffee and orange or other acidic juices are some of the beverages that can worse or trigger heartburn.
· Fatty foods, fried foods, and some acidic foods (oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes) as well as spicy foods can cause heartburn.
Symptoms of heartburn
- A burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours.
- Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down, or eating.
- Burning in the throat -- or hot, sour, acidic or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Feeling of food "sticking" in the middle of the chest or throat.
- Heartburn may cause chronic cough, sore throat, or chronic hoarseness.
There are several ways to treat and avoid heartburn with lifestyle changes.
· Weight loss/keeping ideal weight: Excess weight increases the pressure on the stomach, increasing the chance of acid reflux into the esophagus.
· Quit smoking: Smoking interferes with the proper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.
· Food control: Avoid foods that trigger. Consider keeping a food journal to alert you to foods that make your heartburn worse. Decrease the amount of food you eat.
· Elevate the head of the bed: If you are experiencing heartburn at night, elevating the head of the bed will decrease reflux.