All About Heartburn
Heartburn refers to the irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. Heartburn despite its name has no relation to the heart. Heartburn may affect us all on many occasions, but it is not dangerous. However, recurrent acid flux is chronic and leads to a diagnosis of GERD(gastroesophageal reflux disease). Heartburn is a symptom of GERD.
What Causes Heartburn?
Under normal circumstances, the LES(lower esophageal sphincter) prevents food as well as the acid from the stomach from refluxing into the esophagus. It also opens and closes to permit belching.
When this muscular valve fails to close tight or opens too often, stomach acid may seep or reflux into the esophagus and causing an irritation or a burning sensation. Causes of heartburn are directly related to factors that result to increase the production of stomach acid. They include:
1. Some of the foods that we ingest stimulate the production of stomach acid that is necessary for their digestion. If these foods get ingested in large quantities, there is increased stomach acid secretion. Some medications and foods may cause the relaxation of the LES causing it to open hence resulting in heartburn. Examples of these foods and drugs include;
- Acidic fruits such as oranges.
- Acidic foods such as tomatoes.
- Carbonated drinks such as soft drinks.
- Aspirin and Buprofen.
2. Overeating is a common cause of heartburn. Having too much food in the stomach exert a lot of pressure to the stomach that result to opening of the LES.
3. Pregnancy has the same effect on the stomach as overeating. Pregnancy exerts pressure on the abdominal cavity that affect the normal functioning of the LES.
4. Obesity is a very common cause of heartburn. Obesity causes the compression of abdominal muscles which causes heartburn.
5. Smoking, as well as the consumption of excess fatty foods, has an effect on the LES. They make the LES muscles to be flaccid which results in its relaxation and leads to stomach acid seeping into the esophagus.
6. Depression, stress, and insomnia have a tendency to increasing the production of stomach acid that in turn causes heartburn.
Can Not Eating Enough Cause Heartburn?
The difference between the stomach and the esophagus is the fact that the stomach linings have protective cells that prevent the stomach acid from causing inflammation. The esophagus walls do not have this special cell, and once the stomach acid leaks into the esophagus, it causes inflammation and may cause serious damage to the vulnerable lining.
Not eating enough food may result in heartburn. When the stomach prepares itself to digest food, it immediately starts releasing the stomach acid. Not eating enough food results in the stomach having excess stomach acid.
Once this acid leaks into the esophagus, it causes heartburn. Heartburn has a few complications that are not be taken lightly.
The recurrent occurrence of heartburn results to extreme irritation and inflammation of the esophagus that may lead to ulcers. Ulcers are small areas where there is a manifestation of tissue breakdown. Therefore, if ignored, heartburn may also affect the stomach by causing ulcers that may bring about serious bleeding of stomach tissues.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heartburn?
Different people always react differently to certain conditions. A patient may exhibit symptoms that are unique from those of another patient. However, some of the common symptoms of heartburn include:
- Burning sensation behind the breastbone.
- Pain in the lower chest.
- Sour taste in the throat.
- Frequent coughing episodes.
- Lack of sleep.
- Tooth decay in severe cases.
- Shortness breath.
- Cold sweat and dizziness.
Treatments, Relief And Remedies For Heartburn.
There are technically three ways of treating heartburn: Lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures.
1. Lifestyle Changes
Changing one’s lifestyle is an effective way of curbing heartburn. Lifestyle changes that are effective in treating heartburn include;
- Stop smoking and avoid alcohol.
- Weight loss.
- Avoid overeating as well as eating before going to bed.
- Proper sleeping habits such as raising the head of the bed when sleeping to allow gravity to prevent food and stomach acid from refluxing.
- Food control.
Medication involves the use of antacids as well as medications that suppress or even block the production of stomach acid.
3. Heartburn surgery
Surgery is effective for severe cases of heartburn such as a Barret’s esophagus.