Heartburn is something most people experience from time to time. However, many people do not know is that while it has some symptoms similar to the symptoms of a heart attack or heart disease but has nothing to do with the heart! Heartburn is actually caused by an irritation of the esophagus (the tube connecting the throat and stomach) caused by stomach acid, which results in a burning sensation in the upper abdomen. Many people also tend to think that the term acid reflux is pretty much interchangeable with heartburn. This too is not the case. Acid reflux takes place when the stomach acid moves up into the esophagus and causes heartburn. The lower esophageal sphincter, a small bundle of muscles, is located at the entrance of the stomach and is supposed to close after food passes through it. When the valve does not close all the way or is opened too frequently, acid reflex will occur and cause heartburn.
The Causes Of Heartburn
Heartburn usually occurs after consuming a meal. There are certain positions such as lying down or bending over that can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Mild and infrequent cases of heartburn are not usually a cause for concern and can be alleviated with improved diet and lifestyle changes as well as over the counter medicine. Severe cases of heartburn can cause temporary debilitation and may indicate the presence of a disease such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Frequent and severe cases of heartburn require immediate medical attention and symptoms like a pain in the arm or jaw and difficulty breathing may indicate an oncoming heart attack so seek medical attention without delay. Factors contributing to heartburn include eating spicy food, eating too much, eating fried or fatty food, consuming foods high in acid, consuming large meals, being overweight, smoking, and excessively drinking alcohol.
The Causes Of Acid Reflux
The factors contributing to heartburn also contribute to acid reflux. Try not to eat close to bedtime, eat large meals, bend over or lie down right after eating. Keep a healthy weight as obesity contributes to acid reflux and avoid certain foods like spicy, fatty, fried, garlic, onions, mint, tomato, citric, chocolate, etc. Also avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, and smoking. Frequently experiencing acid reflux may also indicate the presence of disease such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is treatable with prescription medicine or surgery but should not be left untreated as it can lead to more serious conditions. Symptoms of acid reflux include difficulty swallowing, having a sour taste in the mouth, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and inability to lie supine. Lifestyle and diet changes can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms as well as over the counter medication such as Tums, Tagamet, Prilosec, and Pepcid.
Heartburn And Acid Reflux Treatments
Heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD are treatable with a non-surgical procedure called Stretta. Stretta is an out-patient treatment that takes about an hour to perform and uses radiofrequency to reduce the walls of the lower esophagus. Stretta usually treats patients whose condition is not well controlled with medication. It has few side effects and is effective for up to ten years. There are various types of laparoscopic surgeries available to treat chronic and severe conditions and the surgery performed will depend on the individual and any specific health issues the individual has. The surgeries do not always require general anesthesia or hospitalization. There are many effective treatments available, so there is no need to live with the pain and discomfort of having these conditions.