You just finished enjoying a huge meal and while sitting in front of the TV to relax, you started feeling a burning sensation building up from your upper abdomen, behind your breastbone and this makes you feel like your chest is on fire. The chest pain and the burning sensation then travel from your diaphragm and to your throat, accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth and a feeling as if food is reentering from your esophagus. To sum it up, you are suffering from a heartburn condition.
You do not have to panic upon hearing the term “heartburn” because this has nothing to do with any kind of heart conditions. A heartburn condition is actually a digestive problem that usually occurs when the gastric acid from your stomach comes in contact with the sensitive lining of your esophagus, thus resulting to irritation. Many people experience heartburn attacks occasionally and this usually happen after a meal. The question is how will you know if your heartburn condition is chronic?
If you are experiencing heartburn attacks once a month, then your condition is mild and you do not really have to worry about it. If the attacks are experienced once a week then the condition is considered moderate. However, if the heartburn attacks occur on a daily basis, this could be severe and it may require medical attention. Take note that nearly 20% of all adults may experience heartburn symptoms at least once a month.
Mild to moderate heartburn conditions can be managed by doing some lifestyle changes, diet changes, weight reduction and with the help of antacids. However, for severe cases of heartburn, the aforementioned remedies can only provide temporary relief against the condition.
What causes Heartburn?
A heartburn condition is due to stomach acid reflux. This is when the stomach acid flows back up to the esophagus and this can happen for several reasons:
- In your esophagus, you will find a valve that is responsible for keeping the acid inside the stomach and away from the esophagus. This is the LES or the lower esophageal sphincter. In case this valve is weakened or becomes too relaxed, it will be unable to function properly. Due to this, acid flows from the stomach back to the esophagus, thus resulting to heartburn. This is also a very common symptom of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux diseases.
- There are certain types of foods that can also trigger a heartburn attack. Some of these foods include chocolate, peppermint, fatty and fried foods, alcoholic beverages, coffee, sugar and any other foods or drinks that can relax or weaken the LES.
- Another common cause of heartburn is having large meal moments before going to bed.
- Heartburn conditions can also be due to hiatal hernia, pressure on the stomach due to tight clothes, frequent bending, obesity and excessive lifting, consumption of certain medications, stress and cigarette smoking.
Is Heartburn a Serious Condition?
For those who are affected by mild heartburn conditions, it can be considered as a nuisance rather than a condition that can lead to serious complications. However, individuals afflicted by severe or chronic heartburn should seek immediate medical attention, as this could lead to severe complications. For individuals affected by GERD, heartburn conditions can be severe and this can cause scarring of the esophagus. This is when the esophagus narrows down, thus making swallowing difficult. Severe heartburn can also lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a known condition where cells similar to the ones found within the lining of the stomach starts to develop within the lower portion of the esophagus and severe cases of such can lead to esophageal cancer.
Managing your Heartburn
With regards to heartburn conditions, finding relief can be very easy. Several self-care heartburn remedies are available for you and you can start by modifying your diet and your lifestyle. A few other suggestions include the following:
- Eat smaller meals frequently instead of having three huge meals. This will help prevent the excessive production of acid in your stomach.
- Eat slowly. This is one important way to help you ease digestion and prevent adding too much stress on your stomach.
- After having lunch or dinner, make sure that you stay up for at least three hours before going to bed. This is to reduce the amount of acid within your stomach, thus preventing heartburn from occurring.
- Sleeping in an elevated position can help prevent acid from flowing back into your esophagus.
- As much as possible, you should avoid things that could trigger a
- heartburn attack. This includes the consumption of foods and drinks that can cause heartburn. Instead of these, you should opt for foods that can actually help you sooth the condition.
- As mentioned, smoking is another common cause of heartburn and in order to prevent an attack, you should try your best to quit smoking. Take note that nicotine can relax the LES, thus preventing it from functioning properly.
- Before going to bed, make sure that you are wearing loose clothing. This will help reduce the stress in your stomach and prevent heartburn attacks.
- If you are overweight, try to engage in regular exercises to shed some unwanted body weight. This will help relieve the stress in your stomach and prevent the condition.
- Make sure that you always keep a chewing gum in your pocket. Whenever you feel like you are experiencing a heartburn attack, chew a gum to increase the production of saliva and neutralize the acid in your stomach.
These are the most important things you have to know when suffering from a heartburn condition. Following the suggestions stated above can help you find the perfect heartburn relief, avoid heartburn attacks and prevent the condition from worsening.