What does heartburn feel like? Heartburn is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by a burning sensation in the chest, which can be quite uncomfortable and even painful at times. If left untreated, heartburn can lead to serious health complications such as oesophageal cancer, so it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and treatments of this condition.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to a burning sensation in the chest, throat, and even the mouth.
Causes of Heartburn
There are several factors that can trigger heartburn. The most common causes include:
- Eating large meals or lying down after eating
- Eating spicy, fatty, or acidic foods
- Certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood pressure medications
- Hiatal hernia
Symptoms of Heartburn
The symptoms of heartburn can vary from person to person, but the most common ones include:
- Burning sensation in the chest, throat, or mouth
- Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling of food stuck in the throat
- Coughing or hoarseness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Regurgitation of food or stomach acid
Factors That Aggravate Heartburn
Heartburn can be caused by a variety of factors, and there are also certain factors that can aggravate the condition. Here are some common factors that can make heartburn worse:
- Eating large meals: Eating large meals can put pressure on the stomach, which can cause stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus and worsen heartburn symptoms.
- Eating trigger foods: Spicy, fatty, and acidic foods can all trigger heartburn symptoms in some people. These foods can increase the production of stomach acid and irritate the oesophagus.
- Drinking alcohol: Alcohol can relax the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus and cause heartburn.
- Smoking: Smoking can irritate the oesophagus and increase the production of stomach acid, which can worsen heartburn symptoms.
- Eating too close to bedtime: Eating a meal or a snack close to bedtime can increase the risk of heartburn, as lying down can make it easier for stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus.
- Taking certain medications: Some medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood pressure medications, can irritate the stomach lining and worsen heartburn symptoms.
- Being overweight or obese: Excess weight can put pressure on the stomach and increase the risk of stomach acid refluxing into the oesophagus.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can increase the risk of heartburn, as hormonal changes can relax the LES and the growing uterus can put pressure on the stomach.
- Stress: Stress can increase the production of stomach acid and make the symptoms of heartburn worse.
By identifying and avoiding these aggravating factors, people with heartburn can better manage their symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. It is also important to speak with a healthcare provider if heartburn symptoms persist or worsen over time.
Treatment of Heartburn
There are several ways to treat heartburn, depending on the severity of the condition. Some common treatments include:
- Over-the-counter antacids: These medications neutralize stomach acid and provide relief from heartburn symptoms.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These medications reduce the production of stomach acid and are often prescribed for people with chronic heartburn.
- Lifestyle changes: Eating smaller meals, avoiding trigger foods, losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress can all help reduce heartburn symptoms.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a hiatal hernia or other underlying condition causing heartburn.
While heartburn can be treated, it’s better to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent heartburn:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day
- Avoid trigger foods such as spicy, fatty, or acidic foods
- Don’t lie down after eating
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
Heartburn is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. While it can be uncomfortable and even painful at times, it can be treated and prevented with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. If you experience heartburn symptoms on a regular basis, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.