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Never Had Heartburn Before But Now I Do

How Does The Doctor Evaluate Heartburn

Heartburn and Reflux Differences

Your doctor may order several different tests and take the following steps to evaluate persistent heartburn that hasn’t gone away even after you modify factors such as your diet:

  • Your doctor may ask for an EKG to help rule out heart-related problems.
  • Your doctor will perform an examination to see if you have any abdominal mass or a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach and the LES move above the diaphragm.
  • Your doctor will check your blood pressure.
  • Your doctor will take a careful medical history to see if medications are causing the problem.
  • Your doctor may ask for a gastric emptying study to see how fast food goes out of your stomach or a test to show how well the esophagus and the LES work.
  • Your doctor may refer you for an upper endoscopy. In this test, a flexible tube with a tiny camera helps the doctor assess the esophagus and look for damage or abnormalities.

Heartburn Or Heart Attack

Symptoms of severe heartburn and those of a heart attack can often overlap, but you can usually tell you have heartburn if you experience a burning sensation in your upper abdomen and chest, accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth. The most common and similar symptom of heartburn and a heart attack is the chest pain or discomfort. Other symptoms that may be a more likely indication of heart attack are listed below:

  • Cold sweat
  • Sudden lightheadedness
  • Pressure or pain in your chest, arms, neck, jaw or back

With heartburn, you may feel like food is coming up into your mouth. Its a different sensation than vomiting, but severe heartburn can also cause you to vomit. If youre not sure if youre experiencing heartburn or a heart attack, seek immediate medical care.

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Dont 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.

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Research Spotlight: Health Coaching And Gerd

A High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Benefits Women with GERD

Previous research indicates clear associations between insulin resistance, overweight, and GERD. A high intake of refined carbohydrates is known to trigger insulin resistance and overweight. This study sought to examine the effects of carbohydrate reduction, via a low-carb, high-fat diet, on GERD symptoms in a cohort of insulin-resistant, obese women.

Study Summary

Key Findings

This study indicates that a reduction in dietary carbohydrates benefits women with GERD, reducing both the severity of their symptoms and the need for medication. From an ancestral health perspective, an intake of 35 percent carbohydrates is quite high for an obese, insulin-resistant individual as a result, this research may have underestimated the impact of carbohydrate reduction on GERD. A carbohydrate intake of 10 to 15 percent of total calories, low by ancestral health standards, may produce even greater benefits. Furthermore, the carbohydrates allowed on the low-carb diet were formulated to include half complex carbs and half simple carbs if simple carbohydrates had been removed entirely, it is possible that greater improvements in GERD symptoms might have been observed.

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How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn

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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.

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Things To Stop Doing If You Have Gerd

When you suffer from chronic heartburn that can be associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease , this condition can affect your entire life. It may be necessary to stop eating some of your favorite foods. The heartburn may interfere with your sleep. It may even interfere with your availability to work well.

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 it’s more common in adults, kids, teens, and even babies can have gastroesophageal reflux.

Read Also: Why Is Heartburn Worse At Night

Diet And Lifestyle Measures To Ward Off Heartburn

Taking steps to combat acid reflux can help minimize the use of potentially dangerous drugs.

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The childhood admonition to refrain from swimming for an hour after eating, ostensibly to avoid cramp, is not nearly long enough for me anymore. I now have to wait at least two hours before attempting any vigorous activity, or chores that involve bending over, to avoid the miserable sensation of acid reflux, commonly recognized by its frequent symptom of heartburn.

Ive also found that a favorite breakfast food peanut butter is especially troublesome, along with smoked fish, pickled herring or brewed coffee on an empty stomach.

Check If You Have Acid Reflux

They Never Had A Clue Until Now

The main symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • heartburn a burning sensation in the middle of your chest
  • an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid

You may also have:

  • a cough or hiccups that keep coming back
  • a hoarse voice

Your symptoms will probably be worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

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What Is Acid Reflux

When you swallow food, it passes from your throat, through your esophagus, and then through an opening in your stomach.

This opening usually closes once the food passes through. If it doesn’t, acid from your stomach may enter through the opening and travel the wrong wayback into your esophagus and to your throat. This is called acid reflux. The opening can occur sporadically after a meal leading to multiple reflux events.

Difficulty Swallowing And Sore Throat

If stomach acids go all the way up your esophagus, they can reach the back of your throat. This condition is called laryngopharyngeal reflux . Besides heartburn, you might feel symptoms like a in your throat or a . You may constantly need to clear your throat or have trouble swallowing. Lifestyle changes can usually correct LPR. Try eating a bland diet and stop eating three hours before bed. If you are overweight, losing weight may help relieve pressure on your stomach. Also skip caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes.

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When Heartburn Gets Serious

Ignoring heartburn — just putting up with it, popping a few pills day after day — isn’t necessarily the best plan. There are complications that can result from letting the problem linger.

“When heartburn is not appropriately treated, acid reflux can cause erosion and ulcers in the lining of the esophagus,” says William C. Orr, PhD, a clinical professor of medicine and specialist in gastrointestinal disorders at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

“It’s extremely painful and greatly affects the patient’s lifestyle,” he tells WebMD. “It really alters very significantly the quality of life.”

Long-term acid reflux can cause scarring and narrowing in the esophagus, which can also lead to swallowing difficulties, Radhika Srinivasan, MD, a gastrointestinal specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, tells WebMD.

This condition, called esophageal strictures, can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach. Strictures are treated by dilation, in which an instrument gently stretches the strictures and expands the opening in the esophagus.

In fairly rare cases, chronic acid reflux can also cause a pre-cancerous condition called “Barrett’s esophagus,” she adds. Barrett’s esophagus is a result of the chronic acid reflux into the esophagus causing dangerous changes in the cells that line the esophagus — these cells can become cancerous.

What Exactly Is Heartburn Anyway

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Heartburnor gastroesophageal reflux or acid refluxis a painful burning feeling in your chest or your throat, according to the US National Library of Medicine .

Basically, heartburn happens when your esophagus relaxes too much and stomach acid comes back up into your esophagus, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . It can be managed by making changes to your diet, like cutting back on coffee and alcohol, or through medications.

Having heartburn every once in a while, like after a spicy meal or taking a nap too soon after eating, is normal but if it occurs more than twice a week for more than a few weeks, it’s time to see a doctorin that case, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease , a chronic, sometimes damaging form of heartburn.

But GERD isn’t the only issue that is related to heartburn. Many other conditionssome even life-threateningcan mimic the feeling of heartburn. Here, nine other conditions that heartburn could be masquerading asand when to see your doctor about it.

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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Gerd

Often, people who have GERD notice that they regularly have the pain of heartburn in the chest or stomach. This can last up to a couple of hours. Many notice their heartburn is worse after eating.

Regurgitation when food and liquid containing stomach acid comes back up into the throat or mouth is also a sign of GERD. But, like heartburn, occasional regurgitation is common for everyone.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice
  • a frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
  • a feeling of burping acid into the mouth
  • trouble swallowing

Dont Lie Flat When You Sleep

When you lie flat your stomach contents press against the LES. Keeping your head higher than your stomach helps reduce this pressure.

You can elevate your head in a couple of ways:

  • Place bricks, blocks, or something sturdy and secure under the legs at the head of your bed.
  • Use a wedge-shaped GERD pillow under your head and shoulders.

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How Is Gerd Treated

Treatment for GERD depends on how severe symptoms are. For some people, treatment may just include lifestyle changes, such as changing what they eat or drink. Others will need to take medicines. In very rare cases, when GERD is particularly severe, a doctor will recommend surgery.

These lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of GERD or even prevent the condition:

  • quitting smoking
  • losing weight if you are overweight
  • eating small meals
  • avoiding carbonated beverages
  • avoiding foods that trigger reflux

It also can help to not lie down for 3 hours after a meal and to not eat 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Doctors sometimes also recommend raising the head of the bed about 6 to 8 inches. Before you start a major bedroom makeover, though, talk to your doctor and your parents about the best sleeping position for you.

If symptoms continue, doctors might prescribe medicine, such as:

  • H2 blockers, which can help block the production of stomach acid
  • proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
  • prokinetics, which help the esophageal sphincter work better and the stomach empty faster. This can prevent reflux episodes.

Not All Of Them Are Obvious

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Feel like you just cant keep that nasty stuff in your belly from bubbling up into your throat? What youre experiencing might not be run-of-the-mill heartburn. It could be a case of gastroesophageal reflux diseaseGERD, for shorta condition that causes the acid and food in your stomach to rise into your esophagus, and sometimes even enter your mouth or lungs. GERD is far from rare: In fact, it occurs in 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the medical journal Gastroenterology. But there are also several factors that make some people an easier target for the disease.

Everyone has a small, normal amount of gastroesophageal reflux, but an abnormal amount of acid reflux occurs when the one-way valve between the esophagus and the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, becomes too loose, says Ketan Shah, M.D., gastroenterologist at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. This can occur for multiple reasons that cause intra-abdominal pressure to be abnormally elevated, including being overweight or obese, frequent overeating, lying down too soon after eating, chronic straining or coughing, or chronic heavy lifting. These are typically the people who are more susceptible to GERD.

Heartburn wont go away

Bitter taste

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What’s Normal With Heartburn

“Heartburn should never be considered normal,” says Galier. Food is often the culprit. People with heartburn typically may be sensitive to foods such as chocolate, carbonated beverages, peppermint, coffee, citrus foods, fried and fatty foods, and spicy foods.

Having heartburn more than occasionally can reduce your quality of life. It can affect not just what you eat, but how you sleep and what activities you do.

And if heartburn from acid reflux persists and you don’t get treatment, complications can occur. They include damaging inflammation of the esophagus that affects the lining and causes bleeding. Another potential complication is Barrett’s esophagus. With Barrett’s esophagus the cells that line the esophagus become abnormal. That, in turn, boosts the risk of esophageal cancer.

Why Am I Getting Heartburn All Of A Sudden

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Note The Time Your Heartburn Symptoms Occur

Think, too, about when the heartburn occurs. Galier says if it happens after a big meal, and it’s just the burning in the chest, with no other symptoms, itâs more than likely heartburn or indigestion. But if you have any doubt, it’s wise to ask your doctor for an evaluation.

“If you have chest pain after a meal, it’s more likely to be reflux,” agrees Glenn Eisen, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of endoscopy at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. But that’s not a perfect test, he says. “It could be cardiac.”

Phil Katz, MD, says that knowing what “classic” heartburn is like may help. Katz is president-elect of the American College of Gastroenterology and clinical professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

âThe classic heartburn symptom,â he tells WebMD, âis burning that starts at the upper stomach or lower breastbone and progresses upward and occurs after a meal or when bending over.” He adds, “It’s rapidly relieved by an antacid within a few minutes.â

Severe Symptoms Can Cause Damage

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Ignoring persistent symptoms of GERD can damage the esophagus, since the constant backwash of acid irritates the lining and can cause scar tissue to form over time. That scar sometimes is helpful, tightening up the area so material doesnt come up that easily, but its at the expense of the esophagus not working right, limiting the food thats going down, Ergun says. A normal esophagus is 20 millimeters in diameter, Ergun says, and when it gets to about half its typical diameter, people start to notice food something like bread or meat getting stuck.

GERD can also affect tissue that lines the lower esophagus. Instead of the cells of the esophagus being consistent with the cells of the stomach, they change a condition known as Barretts esophagus, says Nipaporn Pichetshote, M.D., a gastroenterology specialist in Los Angeles affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Thats concerning because there is a risk for progression into esophageal cancer. Though she says the likelihood of this is quite low, it becomes something to watch in people who have reflux disease for 10 years.

Another concern: Acid reflux and cardiac problems can sometimes mimic each other. People will say, Oh, I have indigestion and assume its the esophagus, when it could be the heart, or vice-versa, Ergun says. If youre experiencing chest pain, address it with your doctor to make sure it isnt something other than acid reflux.

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Do I Need To Visit My Doctor About My Heartburn

If youre experiencing heartburn every once in a while, youre probably ok to go without a visit to Cary Gastroenterology. There are over the counter medications you can take that should give you relief pretty quickly. Over the counter medications are not intended for long term use and, should you find yourself taking them frequently, you should do so under the supervision of a physician. If you start to notice that youre experiencing the pain more often or that its getting increasingly more uncomfortable, make an appointment to come see us. There are a number of things we can recommend that dont require medication, including weight loss, an adjustment in diet and exercise, changes in medications, and even different sleeping positions.

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