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.