It is estimated that 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. The medical name for the condition is Laryngopharyngeal Reflux and it is caused by acid from the stomach flowing back up into the food pipe. It often occurs after eating and is characterized by a pain in the lower chest area. This is the reason why it is often referred to as heartburn, because the pain is in the same area as the heart.
Hydrochloric acid is found in the stomach as it helps to break down food and also helps to protect the body against bacteria. Heartburn occurs when the acid from the stomach goes back up the esophagus, the tube that carries food down into the stomach. The stomach has a lining that protects the walls from the burning sensation that this hydrochloric acid can cause. There is a valve that stops this acid from entering the esophagus but there are times when this valve does not work. As there is no protection in the esophagus then a burning sensation is felt and it is this sensation that is referred to as heartburn.
There are several risk factors that can mean you are more likely to suffer from heartburn. Some of these cannot be treated such as having a condition like as a hiatus hernia. A hernia may cause the stomach to push above the diaphragm and this can cause reflux. There are also risk factors such as obesity, poor diet, and smoking that you are able to do something about. Certain medications can also cause you to suffer from reflux more often, as can low levels of physical activity.
If you suffer from heartburn on a regular basis then there may be some changes that you can make to your diet which will help improve the situation. If you suffer from heartburn then the best thing to drink may be water as the condition is often associated with caffeine, carbonated drinks, and fruit juices. Eating large meals can also be a factor along with lying down too soon after a meal. You may want to consider reducing the portion sizes of your evening meal and eating earlier in the evening so you have more time before you go to bed.
Heartburn can be treated in a number of different ways and there are many treatments that you can access without having to see a doctor. Changes to your diet, as discussed above, can be one of the most effective treatments that you can undertake. You can also purchase over the counter treatments such as Gaviscon. This works by creating a barrier of alginic acid at the point where the esophagus enters the stomach. This means that if there is any reflux then it will only be alginic acid that enters the esophagus which does not cause a burning sensation.
Most cases of heartburn can be treated with over the counter remedies but if you are concerned that the pain is worse than normal or you are having more frequent episodes than you should consult your doctor. You may also want to think about whether any of the risk factors apply to you and whether you could make changes to your lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of you suffering from heartburn.