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How To Know When You Have Heartburn

When Acid Reflux Is Chronic: What Is Gerd

How Do I Know If I Have Reflux?

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, GERD is acid reflux that occurs two or more times per week. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of the U.S. population has GERD.

That said, its not the case that a person who has occasional heartburn will necessarily progress toward having GERD, says Louis Cohen, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. But the symptoms are the same as those of acid reflux, such as the burning feeling in your chest and the sensation that your stomach contents are in your throat. You may also have a dry cough or trouble swallowing.

Diagnosing the condition can usually be done by a primary care doctor by simply evaluating symptom frequency and severity.

We may also put a probe into a patients esophagus for a day to measure how frequently reflux happens, says Dr. Cohen. Knowing how often reflux occurs is another way to confirm a diagnosis, beyond evaluating the symptoms.

Treatment for GERD starts with lifestyle modifications, adds Hagan: Well ask patients to try these steps before we offer medication, although we understand that it can be hard to do some things, such as quitting smoking.

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Other drugs called H2 blockers, such as Zantac or Pepcid , may also be effective, says Hagan. H2 blockers also lower stomach acid production, and they are available over the counter.

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How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn

Antacids reduce the amount of stomach acid, relieving your heartburn. These medications can also be used to soothe stomach upset, indigestion and other pains in your stomach. Some antacids contain simethicone, which reduces gas. Antacids that you can get without a prescription include:

  • Tums®.
  • Maalox®.
  • Gaviscon®.

Make sure you always follow the instructions on the package or talk to your doctor about the right way to use an antacid. If you use tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief.

What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux , also called reflux, is when food and acid from the stomach go back up into the esophagus. This causes an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, often called heartburn.

With GER, reflux happens after nearly every meal and causes noticeable discomfort. After eating, people with GER feel a burning sensation in the chest, neck, and throat.

While its more common in adults, kids, teens, and even babies can have gastroesophageal reflux.

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Causes Of Heartburn In Pregnancy

Heartburn is commonly caused by eating spicy foods, which can irritate the stomach or esophagus or slow the rate of digestion. This can be true during pregnancy, too, but many of the causes of heartburn in pregnancy are simply natural parts of pregnancy, such as:

Hormonal changes

Experts believe that heartburn in pregnancy is caused by hormonal changes. Pregnant people have high levels of the hormone progesterone which causes muscles in the body to relax. One of these muscles is the lower esophageal sphincter, which seals the stomach off from the esophagus, the long tube connecting the throat with the stomach.

Usually when we swallow our food, the lower esophageal sphincter opens up to allow food to enter our stomachs, but the rest of the time, it’s squeezed shut. Because of the increased levels of hormones in pregnant people, the muscle relaxes, allowing stomach acids and partially digested food to move backward into the esophagus. The esophagus lining is more sensitive than stomach lining which is why it feels like it’s burning.

Hormonal changes also cause the digestive system to slow down, so the food moves more slowly through the body and stays in the stomach longer.

Growing uterus

As the baby grows, especially during the third trimester, the uterus pushes on the abdomen, adding pressure or blocking parts of the digestive tract. This sometimes pushes stomach acid up into the esophagus. It also adds to the slowing down of the digestive system.

Signs And Symptoms Of Heartburn In Pregnancy

5 Ways To know if you have Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart, but one of the symptoms does begin in the chest area.

Heartburn is a burning feeling that begins in the lower chest area then moves up toward the neck and throat. This usually occurs after eating or at bedtime and can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours.

Other signs of heartburn include:


Bloating is that too-full feeling where your stomach feels tight. Bloating happens when the gas thats supposed to be passed out of your body by burping or flatulence stays in your intestines and stomach instead.

Burping or belching

When you swallow food or a carbonated drink, gas enters the stomach. The air usually stays in the stomach because the lower esophageal sphincter is closed. Belching is when the air escapes from the stomach to the mouth.

Bitter or sour taste

The stomach acids and food coming back up your throat can leave a sour or bitter taste in your mouth that can signal heartburn.

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Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol increases the amount of acid the stomach produces. It also relaxes the LES. If you drink, try these tips:

  • Dilute the alcohol with water or club soda.
  • Limit consumption. Have one or two mixed drinks, no more than 16 ounces of wine, or no more than three beers.
  • Drink white wine instead of red wine.
  • Choose non-alcoholic beer or wine.
  • Keep track of which alcoholic drinks trigger your heartburn. Avoid these drinks as much as you can.

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.

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The Role Of Stomach Acid

But over-the-counter medicines that get rid of stomach acid are not a long-term solution to constant heartburn, Dr. Dumot says.

You may be making the symptoms go away with medicine, but not addressing an underlying problem.

Gastric acid is part of our natural makeup — just not in the esophagus, he says. The acid helps you to digest the food and protects you against infection. When you suppress acid, you can be affecting your health by affecting the digestive process.

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Maternity often tends to aggravate heartburn since the lower esophageal sphincter is actually weakened during pregnancy. This damaged settles after shipping of the baby. Pregnancy also misshapes the organs in the mid-section as well as the enhanced abdominal pressure from the increasing baby creates heartburn . These adjustments ensure the heartburn of acid as well as pyrosis .

Approximately 17% to 45% of females that become pregnant will definitely deal with pyrosis .

However there are no very clear research studies on the security of heartburn medications on the expanding baby, as well as scientists are actually not mosting likely to check these drugs on expectant ladies to evaluate just how risk-free they are for the establishing baby, so the only choice is to assess these medicines on pregnant pets. There is actually no evidence that the majority of the acid neutralizing or even reducing medications are actually harmful to the unborn child although nonabsorbable medications are actually preferred.

Administration of heartburn during pregnancy consists of many of the same natural home remedy and also lifestyle adjustments for an individual with heartburn that is not pregnant .

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How To Distinguish Heartburn From Angina

Heartburn, angina and other conditions that lead to chest pain such as muscle strains or inflammation can be difficult to distinguish from each other. To get a definitive diagnosis, it is always recommended that you see a doctor. There are some signs, patterns and symptoms that can help you determine whether the chest pain you are experiencing is a result of heartburn or angina though. Read on below for more information about the distinguishing factors for these two conditions.

Similar SymptomsDue to their similar symptoms, heartburn and angina are somewhat difficult to differentiate. The primary symptoms of angina and heartburn include chest pain located in the center of the chest. Pain in the chest can be a sign of other conditions such as panic attacks, stomach ulcers, muscle strains and even heart attacks. However, two common conditions that lead to recurring chest pain are heartburn and angina. Although these two conditions have similar primary symptoms their causes and triggers are very different.

Ranexa Popular Angina Medication

If angina or heartburn symptoms are severe or if you are experiencing symptoms similar to a heart attack, contact a doctor. Chest pain that does not go away after taking medication or chest pain that is accompanied with sweating, fainting or vomiting are signs that you could be suffering a heart attack. Get medical attention immediately if these symptoms occur.

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Heartburn Causes And Risk Factors

Heartburn symptoms can start up because of a problem with a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter . It’s located where the esophagus meets the stomach — below the rib cage and slightly left of center.

Normally, with the help of gravity, the LES keeps stomach acid right where it should be — in your stomach. When it’s working right, the LES opens to allow food into your stomach or to let you belch, then closes again. But if the LES opens too often or doesn’t close tightly enough, stomach acid can seep into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation.

If your LES doesn’t tighten as it should, there are often two things that contribute to the problem. One is overeating, which puts too much food in your stomach. Another is too much pressure on your stomach, often due to obesity, pregnancy, or constipation.

Certain foods can relax your LES or increase stomach acid, including:

Meals high in fats and oils often lead to heartburn, as do certain medications. Stress and lack of sleep can raise how much acid your stomach makes and can cause heartburn.

If you’re pregnant, the hormone progesterone can relax your LES and lead to heartburn. Smoking also relaxes the LES and increases stomach acid.

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Otc Medicines For Heartburn

If your heartburn is infrequent or moderate, over-the-counter medicines, which include antacids such as Tums and Alka-Seltzer, H2 blockers such as Zantac and Pepcid, or proton pump inhibitors such as Prevacid and Nexium, are effective, says gastroenterologist John Dumot, DO, Director of the Digestive Health Institute at University Hospitals.

Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach, while H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors work by suppressing stomach acid production.

Over-the-counter medicines can work quickly and are safe for intermittent problems, along with lifestyle changes such as eating smaller meals, avoiding late-night eating or lying down after eating, Dr. Dumot says.

Proton Pump Inhibitors Are Overprescribed And Dangerous

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PPIs are achieving record profits for pharmaceutical companies, who have marketed them aggressively as a miracle cure for heartburn.

As a result, proton-pump inhibitors have long been readily prescribed by doctors.

In recent years, however, the long-term side effects of PPIs have become clearer.

Disruption of the Bacterial Balance

Nowadays, most people are aware that we have both good and bad bacteria living in our intestines.

The good bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. We help each other. Good bacteria create some of the nutrients our bodies need, support our immune system, and prevent bad bacteria from multiplying.

Unfortunately, the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria can easily be destabilized, for example by antibiotics.

Heartburn medication can damage this balance as well. PPIs alter the level of acidity in our digestive tract. Stomach acid is our natural barrier against food-borne pathogens. PPIs weaken this sterilizing effect, leaving us more vulnerable to bacteria in food, which can infect the intestines. Also, less stomach acid means that some food might not be broken down sufficiently. What is not digested by our body can provide nourishment to bad bacteria.

Acid Reflux Drugs Lose Their Efficacy Over Time

Even if you take PPIs, damage to the esophagus will continue to occur. The progression of the disease is only slowed down.

Reduced Absorption of Vitamins and Minerals

This is a huge problem!

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What Are Prescription Medications For Heartburn

If over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers do not relieve your heartburn, your healthcare provider may give you a prescription for other medicines, such as:

  • Prescription-strength acid blockers: In prescription-strength , Zantac®, Tagamet®, Pepcid® and Axid® can generally relieve heartburn and treat GERD.
  • Proton pump inhibitors: These are drugs that block acid production more effectively. Proton pump inhibitors include Aciphex®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec® and Protonix®.

There are some proton pump inhibitors that can be purchased over-the-counter. Talk to your healthcare provider about these medications and what is best for you.

What Causes Chronic Heartburn

Reflux is a protective function that prevents the stomach from overstretching. If you eat too much, the stomach releases pressure into the esophagus.

When this happens on a minor scale, its not a problem. However, some people are more prone to reflux than others – this can be due to an anatomical dysfunction.

There are different causes for reflux. One is a too weak lower esophageal sphincter . This is the valve that sits between the stomach and the esophagus.

In some people, this valve is simply not strong enough to perform its function effectively. It might have become damaged from decades of overeating.

Another cause can be a too tense pyloric sphincter . In that case, the pressure in your stomach will be higher than usual, which means you will get reflux more easily.

Either way, what it comes down to is that you need to be careful to avoid reflux triggers, or to fix the cause of your reflux.

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What Else Should I Know

Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce or even stop uncomfortable GERD symptoms. Untreated GERD can cause permanent damage to the esophagus.

Youll probably find that one of the simplest ways to make living with GERD easier is to avoid the things that trigger your symptoms. Some people will have to limit certain foods others may have to give them up entirely. It all depends on your symptoms.

It can be hard to give up sodas or favorite foods at first. But after a while, lots of people discover that they feel so much better that they dont miss the problem foods as much as they thought they would.

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How To Know If You Have Heartburn

How Do I Know If I Have Acid Reflux?

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 33,847 times.

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Things You Might Not Know About Heartburn

Ill never forget my first time.

It was when I was at university and sharing a house with other students. Our dinner routine was always the same: cook together, eat together, and sprawl on the sofa or even fall straight into bed.

Lying on the sofa one evening, I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my chest, and a slight feeling of pressure. It wasnt too painful and was over quickly, so I didnt give it much thought.

Over the following weeks, however, I experienced the same discomfort again and again, at varying degrees of intensity. A visit to the doctor revealed that I was suffering from heartburn. Thinking about it afterward, the diagnosis totally added up: the symptoms were always worse when I lay down after eating, especially if Id over-indulged.

The doctor prescribed me a proton-pump inhibitor, or PPI, which is an acid-reducing medication. The heartburn went away on that drug, and stayed away even when I discontinued the medication. At least for a while. When the reflux finally flared up again in the form of airway reflux, I had to figure out what was going on and how to fix the problem permanently. Thats when I started Refluxgate.

But lets talk about you. Do you have heartburn? If yes, let me share with you the most important things I have learned about heartburn from my research and interviews over the years:

Causes Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There’s often no obvious reason why.

Sometimes it’s caused or made worse by:

  • certain food and drink such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
  • being overweight
  • some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers
  • a hiatus hernia when part of your stomach moves up into your chest

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