What Is Acid Reflux
A circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter joins your esophagus and stomach. This muscle is in charge of tightening your esophagus after food passes to the stomach. If this muscle is weak or doesnt tighten properly, the acid from your stomach can move backward into your esophagus. This is known as acid reflux.
Acid reflux can cause heartburn and other symptoms that include:
Most people can experience heartburn and acid reflux intermittently related to something they ate or habits like lying down immediately after eating. However, GERD is a chronic condition where doctors start to examine long-lasting habits and parts of a persons anatomy that could cause GERD. Examples of the causes of GERD include:
- being overweight or obese, which puts extra pressure on the stomach
- hiatal hernia, which reduces pressure in the LES
- consuming alcohol
- taking medicines known to weaken the LES, such as antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, pain-relieving medicines, sedatives, and antidepressants
Symptoms of GERD may disrupt your daily life. Fortunately, they can usually be controlled with treatment. Options include:
- diet modification
- smoking cessation
- alcohol cessation
Medications for GERD work to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. They may not be effective for everyone. Some people need surgery to help reinforce the LES.
How Do I Know If Pain Is Caused By My Gallbladder Or Heartburn
Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 | Written by Premier Surgical Staff
The causes of heartburn and abdominal pain are often bewildering for many patients of Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville. The leading symptoms of both heartburn and gallbladder disease are upper abdominal pain and heartburn, which understandably sends peoples minds racing.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that what typically causes heartburn can also trigger a gallbladder attack a diet of fatty or spicy foods, lying down after eating, being overweight, and genetics.
If the symptoms and the sources of both heartburn and gallbladder are so overlapping, how do you know which you may be experiencing? Upper abdominal pain can be caused by a variety of disorders, including acid reflux and gallbladder disease, and even medical professionals may have difficulty distinguishing among these causes. However, the location, nature, and timing of your symptoms may help clarify a diagnosis.
The gallbladder is a sac that sits in the upper right abdomen that stores bile produced by the liver. The bile aids in the digestion of the food you eat. Most of the time, the gallbladder functions normally, but when it becomes blocked or infected it can become a painful and potentially dangerous medical condition.
Heartburn, or GERD
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How Is Heartburn Treated
In most cases, heartburn can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and changes to lifestyle habits that cause the feeling. Occasional heartburn is common and is typically not serious. However, if you have frequent and severe heartburn, reach out to your healthcare provider. This could be a sign of a chronic condition like GERD. GERD can lead to other serious conditions like esophagitis, Barretts esophagus and even cancer. Sometimes, your doctor may want to do an endoscopy to check for underlying medication conditions. An endoscopy is the examination of your digestive tract with a lighted flexible instrument.
Over-the-counter medications for heartburn typically include antacids and acid blockers.
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Why Do I Get Heartburn At Night While Pregnant
Heartburn is common during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones can make the valve at the entrance to the stomach relax so that it doesnt close as it should. This lets acidic stomach contents move up into the esophagus, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux , or acid reflux.
How Do I Know If I Have Heartburn
Your description of your symptoms may be all a doctor requires to diagnose heartburn, but sometimes additional testing may be necessary. The esophagus can be viewed through an endoscope, a long, thin, flexible tube inserted through the mouth, or by X-ray.
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend a 24-hour esophageal pH probe study, especially if you have unusual symptoms, such as throat or chest or abdominal pain, coughing, or asthma-like symptoms. In this test, a long, narrow, flexible tube is inserted through the nose down into the esophagus and a probe is left there for 24 hours. This probe detects acid levels to determine if it correlates with your symptoms. A newer technique measures up to 48-hour acid it is done using wireless pH sensors, which eliminates the need for a tube insertion. To detect if your heart is the cause of your symptoms, an electrocardiogram , a recording of the heart‘s electrical activity, may be taken.
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When To Connect With Health Care Provider
Dr. Graf said if these tips dont get your symptoms under control, or if youre experiencing regurgitation, you should talk to your primary care provider or a gastroenterologist. Its important to get treatment because GERD symptoms arent just uncomfortable. Acid can damage the lining of your esophagus. And over time that damage can lead to a condition called Barretts esophagus, which makes it more likely that you could develop esophageal cancer.
To put together a treatment plan, your doctor may start with an upper endoscopy. Thats a procedure where youre sedated, and a surgeon puts a scope through your mouth and into your esophagus and stomach to see if the acid has caused any damage. If theres no damage, you can likely have follow-up endoscopies when you have your colonoscopies. You can try prescription medications to control your GERD symptoms.
If your esophagus is damaged or inflamed, or if medication doesnt get your symptoms under control, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical treatments for GERD are very effective. They can give you significant relief and halt the progression of GERD, Dr. Graf said.
How Is It Diagnosed
If you’re experiencing heartburn, make sure to track your symptoms. For example, how often does it happen in a day? Does it happen after eating? You can bring this list to your provider to help make a faster and better diagnosis.
After discussing your symptoms and medical history with you, your provider can usually diagnose heartburn easily.
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How Can You Tell If Its Something More Serious Than Gerd
Sometimes people think they have GERD, but they may have another disorder such as a motility disorder or an allergic condition called eosinophilic esophagitis that may mimic symptoms of GERD. In other situations, individuals may be experiencing complications of GERD which may include strictures , ulcerations or esophageal cancer.
Symptoms of persistent pain, difficulty swallowing, signs of bleeding and weight loss with no improvement in symptoms with medications are warning signs that something more serious than GERD might be going on. If youre experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor to rule out any more serious conditions. If you have multiple risk factors for esophageal cancer including GERD, you may also be asked by your doctor to undergo a screening procedure to check for esophageal cancer or its precursor lesion, Barretts esophagus.
How Long Can Acid Reflux Chest Pain Last
The uncomfortable symptoms of heartburn can last for two hours or longer, depending on the cause. Mild heartburn that occurs after eating spicy or acidic food typically lasts until the food has been digested. Heartburn symptoms may also return several hours after they first appeared if you bend over or lie down.
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Does Water Help Heartburn
Drinking water during the later stages of digestion can reduce acidity and GERD symptoms. Often, there are pockets of high acidity, between a pH or 1 and 2, just below the esophagus. By drinking tap or filtered water a little while after a meal, you can dilute the acid there, which can result in less heartburn.
What Is The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn describes a feeling of burning, pain, or discomfort in the chest that can be quite uncomfortable. You also may a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth, and it usually occurs after you eat a big meal or when you lay down.
Not everyone with GERD will experience heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth, a bitter taste in the mouth, upset stomach, belching, nausea after eating, feeling full, stomach and upper abdomen bloating, dry cough, wheezing, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and in some people, vomiting.
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Heartburn Is Common But It Can Also Be Quite Serious
Heartburn is the burning feeling you get in your chest when food in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. Unfortunately, heartburn is extremely common, with an estimated 60 million Americans experiencing heartburn at least once a month. Nearly 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day.
When you feel heartburn, it means you have gastroesophageal reflux. The reflux is acidic stomach juice thats flowing back up into your esophagus. It irritates the delicate lining of your esophagus and can be painful. The acid reflux backs up into your neck and throat. Frequent acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease .
What Heartburn Feels Like
You get this problem when stomach acid moves into a tube called the esophagus, which carries food from your mouth to the stomach. When that happens, you could have a burning pain in your chest. Your throat might burn, and you could have a sour taste in your mouth or a cough. You may also hear it called GERD , which is heartburn that happens often. But other conditions can have similar symptoms.
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Will Heartburn Go Away On Its Own
For many people, occasional heartburn is common. By watching what you eat and avoiding certain triggers , you may be able to prevent heartburn or manage it. If you find that you frequently experience heartburn and that it keeps getting worse, it could be a sign of a medical condition like GERD. In these cases, your heartburn will not go away without treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider so that you can develop a treatment plan.
How Gastroenterologists Help With Gerd
The key to treating your GERD: a board-certified gastroenterologist
If you are suffering from chronic acid reflux, a specialist can help. GERD is a potentially serious condition, and it will not go away on its own. Untreated GERD can lead to inflammation of the esophagus and cause complications like ulcers, strictures and increased risk of Barretts esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.
A gastroenterologist is a physician with specialized training in managing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract . Our gastroenterologists are fellowship-trained and qualified to diagnose GERD and help develop a meet your treatment plan.
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What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is when someone has reflux more than twice a week. It’s a more serious condition than GER. Doctors usually treat it with medicine.
GERD can be a problem if it’s not treated because, over time, the reflux of stomach acid damages the tissue lining the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. In adults, long-lasting, untreated GERD can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus.
Heartburn Vs Heart Attack Symptoms
To complicate things even more, angina/heart disease and heartburn share risk factors of being older or overweight.
Signs more typical of heartburn include:
- You have a sharp, burning feeling just below your breastbone or ribs.The chest pain can be accompanied by an acidic taste in your mouth, regurgitation of food, or a burning in your throat.
- Pain generally doesn’t spread to your shoulders, neck, or arms, but it can.
- Pain usually comes after meals, particularly after foods or drinks that trigger reflux in you.
- Pain also comes when you lie down or exercise on a full stomach.
- Symptoms usually get better quickly after taking an antacid.
- You rarely get a cold sweat or shortness of breath along with your other symptoms.
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Mix Baking Soda With Water
You might have a heartburn remedy at hand in your kitchen without even knowing it. Baking soda can calm some episodes of heartburn by neutralizing your stomach acid.
To do this, dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it slowly. In fact, you should drink everything slowly when you have heartburn.
help relieve nausea, so some believe it may be worth trying for heartburn, too.
Consider adding grated or diced ginger root to your favorite stir-fry recipes, soups, and other foods. To make ginger tea, steep raw ginger root, dried ginger root, or ginger tea bags in boiling water.
Its probably best to avoid ginger ale, though. Carbonated beverages are a common heartburn trigger, and most brands of ginger ale are made with artificial flavoring rather than the real thing.
What Can Trigger Heartburn
Heartburn can be triggered by many different things that are a part of your daily life. For many people, heartburn can be caused by certain eating and lifestyle habits. These habits can involve things like eating large portions of food, eating too close to bedtime or even having high stress levels.
Certain foods and drinks can also trigger heartburn for some people. Some foods and drinks that could trigger your heartburn can include:
- Caffeinated beverages.
- Carbonated beverages.
Your lifestyle habits can also play a part in why you might experience heartburn. These everyday factors often contribute to medical conditions that cause heartburn, like GERD or hiatal hernia. Some lifestyle habits that can trigger your heartburn include:
- Being overweight.
- Having a high stress level.
- Wearing tight clothes and belts.
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How To Know If You Have Heartburn
This article was co-authored by Peter Gardner, MD. Peter W. Gardner, MD is a board certified physician who has practiced Gastroenterology and Hepatology for over 30 years. He specializes in diseases of the digestive system and liver. Dr. Gardner earned his Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina and attended Georgetown Medical School. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and then his fellowship in Gastroenterology at the University of Connecticut. He is a previous Chief of Gastroenterology at Stamford Hospital and remains on the staff. He is also on the staff of Greenwich Hospital and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Gardner is an Approved Consultant in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology with the American Board of Internal Medicine.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 33,842 times.
Things That Can Make Heartburn Worse
Many things can make heartburn worse. Heartburn is most common after overeating, when bending over or when lying down. Pregnancy, stress, and certain foods can also make heartburn worse.
Things that can make heartburn worse:
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain drinks, including coffee , other drinks that contain caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits
- Fatty foods or spicy foods
- Lying down too soon after eating
- Being overweight or obese
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How Do I Know If I Just Have Heartburn Or If It Is A Heart Attack
Around six million people go to the emergency department each year with chest pain. In many cases, the determination has to be made as to whether the chest pain is due to a relatively minor condition or to a life-threatening process. Often this means making the distinction between heartburn and angina or heart attack , since these can all present with similar symptoms. Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is experienced by as many as 60 million Americans at least once a month. Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux , a disorder in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the tube-like structure that connects the mouth to the stomach. Symptoms result when harsh stomach juices come in contact with delicate lining of the esophagus. The most common features of heartburn are:
- A painful, burning sensation just below the breastbone or ribs
- Pain that develops after eating or upon reclining
- Improvement in symptoms when taking antacids or acid blockers
- A sour or bitter taste in the mouth and belching
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, often occurring along with chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.