What causes heartburn is a question that most of us have asked at one time or another. Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter – a band of muscular tissue located between the esophagus and the stomach – is weakened. The weakened barrier causes gastric acid to reflux, or move back up the esophagus. This movement may be stimulated by certain foods, herbs, drugs and even some activities such as coughing.
If you are having heartburn frequently, the sooner you start treating it, the better chance you have of stopping its progression. For those of you who are not familiar with what causes heartburn, let’s begin by giving you a little information. First, a diet which is high in fat content, simple carbohydrates, acidic foods and processed foods can trigger the weakening of the LES. Once this happens regularly, it will enable the stomach acids to regurgitate into the esophagus.
For many people who experience heartburn at least once a week, an appointment with their doctor is recommended. It is important that this condition is diagnosed promptly as other lifestyle changes, such as excessive eating, can worsen it. A visit to your doctor is also recommended if you eat more than your four standard meal servings each day. If you experience heartburn after your doctor checks for food allergies, sinus infections, or structural abnormalities in your upper gastrointestinal system, then it is likely that you have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is what causes heartburn.
For many people who suffer from occasional heartburn, lifestyle changes can help. Changing your diet and including more fiber in it can reduce your risk of developing GERD and reduce the occurrence of heartburn. Antacids, such as those made by H2 blockers can provide temporary relief from symptoms, but they do not eliminate the problem. Taper down the amount of antacids that you take, or use only when you feel like it. Changing your lifestyle can reduce the occurrence of heartburn and can often prevent it from happening.
If you are experiencing frequent heartburn, even though you have tried adjusting your diet and eliminating foods that may trigger a burning sensation in the stomach, it may be worth getting a chest x-ray to rule out a possible heart problem. Heartburn symptoms often mimic those of a heart attack or severe arrhythmia. Left untreated, they can progress into a more serious problem. To minimize the chances that you will need surgery to correct your problem, you should talk to your doctor about having an ECG or electrocardiogram performed.
Heartburn symptoms can be embarrassing and can interfere with your ability to enjoy social activities and lead to long-term complications, such as esophagitis, chronic bronchitis, and sleep apnea. For many people, heartburn is a chronic matter, which means that they have the condition for years without realizing that it is not their heart that is giving them the discomfort, but rather a series of changes in their digestive system. By keeping a detailed food log, documenting the types of food consumed and when you have had a particular type of painful attack, you will be able to identify certain triggers that can help you keep your symptoms under control. If you are having persistent trouble swallowing, or experience chest pain while sleeping, it is important to see your doctor immediately to ensure that there is no underlying disease that is causing the discomfort.