Heartburn can be described as a burning sensation, discomfort or pain that most times begins in the upper abdomen below the lower breastbone also known as the sternum. This pain could continue to extend upward to your throat which could leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
Heartburn occurs if a muscle known as lower esophageal sphincter (LES) weakens or relaxes. It is situated between your stomach and your esophagus beneath the rib cage. Usually it opens so that food can enter the stomach or to allow belching and closes. If it does not get closed quickly and tightly, the stomach acid could reflux or leak into the esophagus causing a burning sensation which leads to heartburn.
Heartburn causes a lot of problems such as bloating, nausea, swallowing and burping while in some people it may cause asthma, very bad cough, wheezing, choking and in some cases may lead to people having sleeping problems. Heartburn commonly becomes worse after having a meal, lying down or when you bend over and becomes better when you sit or stand up.
Heartburn is likely to occur more in adults than children. Many pregnant women experience heartburn daily because of their growing uterus that puts a lot of upward pressure on the stomach, along with increased levels of the hormone progesterone which could cause a brief weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
There are times symptoms of heartburn are similar to those of a heart attack. This is why it is important to book an appointment with a doctor because symptoms of heartburn may be more serious than you think.
What Causes Heartburn
The main cause of heartburn is when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close quickly and does not close very tight. If the LES weakens or relaxes abnormally, acid from the stomach can go back into the esophagus (acid reflux) causing heartburn. This could become worse when lying down or bending over.
This is normally caused by two problems, which are
1). Eating too much which leaves a lot of food in the stomach
2). Too much pressure on the stomach which is regularly caused by constipation, pregnancy and obesity.
It is worth noting that heartburn is more likely to occur if you have hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia is a condition where part of the stomach stretches through an opening of the diaphragm into the cavity of the chest. This makes the LES to become weaker making it easier for acid to go back from the stomach into the esophagus.
There are some foods that make the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to be relaxed such as chocolate, garlic, citric fruits, coffee, onions, alcohol, peppermint, items that are caffeinated and tomatoes.
Foods that are high in fats and oils whether vegetable or animal most times leads to heartburn occurring.
There are also some types of medications that can make heartburn situations arise, medicines that can make heartburn occur are those related to treating asthma, lung diseases, birth control, menstrual bleeding, high blood pressure, Parkinson disease, anxiety or having problems sleeping. So if you experiencing heartburn and you are on medication then you should check with your doctor.
Lack of sleep as well as stress can lead to a rise in acid production and can cause heartburn.
Smoking is also another factor to consider as a major cause of heartburn as it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and encourages stomach acid.
Symptoms Of Heartburn
Signs more characteristic of heartburn are listed below:
A severe burning sensation that occurs beneath the breastbone or ribs
Pain that normally occurs after eating, when you lie on your back, when you are anxious or when you exercise
The pain becomes worse when lying down or bending over
Though not common, you may experience pain on your arms, neck and shoulders
The pain is not complemented with cold sweat
When Do You Know If It Is Heartburn Or A Heart Problem
Heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). It happens when acid or other substances in your stomach move back into the esophagus which is the tube where food passes from your mouth to your stomach. When acid reflux is common and affects your daily routine, it could mean you have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Treatment of GERD may require prescribed medications and in some situations surgery and other procedures may be required.
If you are interested in knowing if what you are having is heartburn from GERD then you need to watch out for other signs or symptoms such as having palpitations, being sweaty and finding it hard to breathe. If you have any of these symptoms when experiencing heartburn you will need to see a doctor to make sure it is not a heart problem.
What you can also observe is when the heartburn occurs. For instance if after having some food to eat you just feel a burning sensation in your chest without any other symptom it is highly likely to be heartburn indigestion or reflux but this is not a certainty as it could also be cardiac.
Generally, heartburn should not be taken lightly. If heartburn from acid reflux continues without you getting any treatment, it can lead to complications occurring. These include inflammation of the esophagus that causes bleeding due to its lining being affected. Another complication to consider is Barrett’s esophagus which refers to the situation where the cells lining the esophagus become abnormal and this increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
As stated earlier, heartburn could cause problems such as nausea, swallowing burping, bloating and burning pain. These symptoms sometimes could last for about two hours or even longer. Nevertheless, there are various ways for people experiencing heartburn to reduce the intensity, regularity and duration of episodes.
Below are tips that can help you to prevent heartburn from occurring, they include the following:
First of all you should do your best to avoid foods and drinks that can trigger heart burn such as chocolate, garlic, citric fruits, full fat dairy products, coffee, spicy or fatty foods, onions, carbonated drinks, alcohol, peppermint, items that are caffeinated and tomatoes and tomato sauces.
When you have just finished eating avoid bending over or exercising
Eat some hours before bedtime, about 3-4 hours is okay. Going to bed with a full stomach can be harmful. This will allow the food have enough time to digest and move from your stomach as well as giving acid levels the chance to reduce before you lay down. Lying down with your stomach full can cause the contents in your stomach to press hard against the LES.
Try to eat smaller portions of food
Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes especially around the stomach area. Also avoid using belts that are tight as along with the clothes they can squeeze the stomach which force food to reflux.
If you are overweight try as much as possible to lose weight. This is important because obesity puts pressure on the stomach. The pressure on the stomach can push its contents back to the esophagus. It has been noticed that symptoms of GERD goes away after a person who is overweight loses some pounds.
When sleeping, raise your head about 6 inches. When you sleep with your head and chest higher than your stomach and legs, it helps to prevent food that is digested from going back into the esophagus. Place an object under the legs of the head of your bed when sleeping. Sleeping with an extra pillow may not be a good idea for relieving heartburn because while sleeping your head may slip of the pillow.
If you smoke you should try to quit because chemicals like nicotine in sticks of cigarette make the LES weak
Try to relax in order to reduce stress levels. This should be done especially before you retire to bed at night. Try out activities that will make you unwind such as yoga, meditation, tai chi among others to help you relax and reduce stress levels
When you decide to exercise or workout ensure you get the timing right. Such activities should be done at least two hours after you have eaten. Doing it sooner may cause heartburn to occur.
When Do You Need To See A Doctor
You should immediately seek medical attention if you are experiencing severe chest pain or pressure especially if you notice this along with other symptoms such as feeling pain in the jaw or arm or finding it difficult to breath. This is important because chest pain could also be a sign or symptom of a heart attack.
Also try to see your doctor if you experience the following:
If your heartburn happens more than twice a week or if you have been experiencing heartburn more than once a week for about six months or more and it does not get better
You find it difficult to swallow
You have cough or wheezing that is hard to get rid off
The symptoms continue to show up despite you using over the counter medications or you feel one of the medicines you are taking may be causing heartburn. See a doctor before you stop taking the medicine or change the medicine
You experience frequent vomiting or nausea or you vomit contents that look bloody or looks like coffee substances
When you stool the color is black or maroon
You lose weight because you find it hard to eat and experience poor appetite
How To Prepare For Your Appointment With Your Doctor
You should know the pre appointment limitations you have such as if you are not to eat any solid food on the day of the appointment
Before going for the appointment you can write down your symptoms including those that do not seem related to the reason you are going for the appointment
Also write down all the medications you have been taking including vitamins and supplements
Also you should write down your significant medical information as well as other conditions
You can as well write personal information such as recent changes or triggers of stress in your life
Write down the questions you will like to ask your doctor
You can also go along with a friend or colleague to keep you company and provide you with some support as well as help with talking and asking the doctor questions
Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor
What are the likely causes of my symptom?
Is your condition a temporary case or a more serious case?
Do I need to any tests and if so how do i prepare for them?
What are the likely treatments available?
Do I need to change my diet or change the food i eat?
Can i effectively manage issues of heartburn with other health conditions i may have
What Your Doctor Is Likely To Do
Your will likely ask a lot of questions and you should prepare yourself to answer them accordingly. Some of the questions include:
When did you start to notice your symptoms and how severe have they been?
Have your symptoms been regular or occur once in a while?
Is there anything that seems to make your symptoms improve or become worse?
Are they worse after you eat or after you lay down?
Do wake up at night because of the symptoms?
Do you feel food or any sour content come up in the back of your throat?
Do feel nauseous or feel like vomiting?
Do you find it difficult to swallow?
Do you feel you have gained or lost weight?
Likely Test To Undergo
To find out if your heartburn is symptom of GERD, there are some tests your doctor may recommend you do the following tests
An X-ray to see the condition and shape of your stomach and esophagus
An endoscopy if your esophagus has any abnormalities
An esophageal motility test to determine the pressure and movement in your esophagus
There are several medications available over the counter that can help in relieving heartburn such as antacids that help to neutralize acid in your stomach. They may offer you some quick relief but will not be able to treat an esophagus that has been damaged by acid in the stomach. Other options include proton pump inhibitors which can help in reducing stomach acid.
For More information, please check: http://www.howtocureheartburn.org/