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What Causes Heartburn In Women

What Are My Options If These Treatments Don’t Work

What Causes Heartburn in Pregnancy

If a person continues to have heartburn, a health care professional may recommend adding a drug such as metoclopramide . This drug empties food and acid quickly from the stomach so less can back up into the esophagus. Reglan also helps tighten the lower esophageal sphincter.

If a person still have symptoms, a health care professional will then recommend one of the drugs called proton pump inhibitors. Examples of these drugs are omeprazole , lansoprazole , esomeprazole , rabeprazole , and pantoprazole . These tablets prevent the stomach from secreting acid. They are very effective and are typically taken only once a day. These drugs usually are prescribed if other drugs have not helped. They may have to be used indefinitely.

What Are The Complications Associated With Heartburn

Occasional heartburn isnt typically a cause for concern. However, if you get this symptom frequently, you may have a serious health problem that requires treatment.

If you dont get treatment for serious heartburn, you can develop additional health problems, such as an inflammation of the esophagus, which is called esophagitis, or Barretts esophagus. Barretts esophagus causes changes in the lining of the esophagus that can increase your risk of esophageal cancer.

Long-term heartburn can also affect your quality of life. See your doctor to determine a course of treatment if you find it difficult to carry on your daily life or are severely limited in your activities due to heartburn.

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:

  • Onions.
  • 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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Food And Lifestyle Habits Can Cause Stomach Acid To Flow Back Up

Heartburn occurs when the contents of your stomach flow up into your esophagus.

A ring of muscle at the end of your esophagus where it joins your stomach known as the lower esophageal sphincter normally prevents your stomach contents from flowing back up into your esophagus by tightening after you swallow food.

But sometimes this muscle doesn’t tighten completely, and the entrance to your stomach doesn’t fully close. When this happens, stomach acid can enter your esophagus and cause heartburn.

There is a wide range of potentially problematic foods and other factors that can contribute to heartburn.

Foods that can trigger heartburn for many people include:

  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods, including ketchup and sauces
  • Peppermint
  • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • Onions

Women And Heartburn A Conclusion

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When it comes to reflux symptoms, it affects women more than men. However, men will endure more changes, more frequently.

It is likely that estrogen plays a role in anti-inflammatory action.

Women are more likely to experience heartburn, belching, and regurgitation than men. This could imply that sex and gender play a role in the way symptoms are signaled in our nervous system.

Causes of acid reflux in women, for the most part, are in line with men. Yet, there are still some defining differences. As more studies are attempted, we may finally come to some hard evidence of specific characteristics as well as treatments, for both men and women.

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Beat The Burn Heartburn That Is

At least 40 million Americans suffer from heartburn. Most have only mild or occasional symptoms. However, about 15 million need medication on a daily basis to control that burning sensation.

What is heartburn?

The feeling varies from person to person, but most people complain about a burning sensation in the chest, near the level of the heart. Occasionally, the pain is lower, near the bottom of the breastbone or sternum. Real heartburn has nothing to do with the heart, but the location of the pain often requires that we make sure the heart is not involved.

The accepted medical term for the problem that causes heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux disease . Its also commonly referred to as acid reflux.

What causes heartburn?

Quite simply, acid reflux refers to acid from the stomach flowing backwards up into the esophagus, also known as the swallowing tube.

As most people know, the stomach makes acid to help digest our food. The lining of the stomach is built to withstand the effects of acid. The acid is supposed to travel downstream into the small intestine along with the food being digested and absorbed. Therefore, the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum, also handles acid quite well.

What are symptoms of heartburn?

Are there long-term risks?

In the end result, the main question is, When should I see my doctor?

Topics in this Post

What Causes Acid Reflux Disease

Several factors may increase your risk for acid reflux disease.

Stomach abnormalities. One common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatal hernia, which can occur in people of any age. A hiatal hernia happens when the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm. This is the muscle wall separating your stomach from your chest. When it works correctly, the diaphragm normally helps keep acid from rising into your esophagus. But if you have a hiatal hernia, it is easier for acid to move up into your esophagus.

Pregnancy. Many women experience acid reflux for the first time during pregnancy. This is caused by increasing levels of hormones combined with pressure from the growing fetus. Usually worst during the third trimester, the symptoms almost always go away after delivery.

Smoking.Smoking may contribute to acid reflux disease by doing any of the following:

  • Damaging mucus membranes
  • Impairing muscle reflexes in the throat
  • Increasing acid secretion

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When Should You See A Doctor For Heartburn

Regular heartburn could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. It is possible, however, to have GERD without having heartburn, and to have heartburn without having GERD. Its important to know when to talk to a doctor for heartburn.

You should see a medical professional if you experience heartburn more than twice a week, if your symptoms dont get better after using over-the-counter medicines, or if your symptoms affect your quality of life. Your doctor will help identify the underlying causes of your health problem and help establish a plan to treat or manage your symptoms. This may include a referral to a gastroenterologist.

What Are Prescription Medications For Heartburn

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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.

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Symptoms Can Last Up To Several Hours After Onset

Heartburn involves a burning, painful sensation behind your breastbone in the center of your chest.

This pain often gets worse after you eat, in the evening, when you bend over, or when you lie down.

Episodes of heartburn can last between a few minutes and several hours.

In addition to burning sensations in your chest, heartburn may also involve:

  • A burning sensation in your throat
  • Fluid in your throat that tastes bitter, sour, or salty
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sense that food is stuck in your chest or lower throat

Heartburn often begins after youve eaten a large meal, but it can also be triggered by certain foods even if you dont eat very much.

What Lifestyle Changes Relieve Heartburn

There are several ways to treat and avoid heartburn with lifestyle changes .

Lose weight and maintain your ideal weight. Excess weight increases the pressure on the stomach, increasing the chance of acid reflux into the esophagus.

Quit smoking: Smoking interferes with the proper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.

Avoid foods that aggravate heartburn and replace them with healthy foods. Avoid foods that trigger heartburn . Consider keeping a food journal to alert you to foods that make your heartburn worse. Decrease the amount of food you eat.

Elevate the head of the bed: If you are experiencing heartburn at night, elevating the head of the bed will decrease reflux.

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Heartburn Caused By Drink

Avoiding coffee and caffeinated beverages such as sports energy drinks can help reduce the risk of heartburn. It’s best to moderate alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine, which can increase stomach acid levels. Alcohol has also been shown to relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. The LES acts as a barrier between your food pipe and your stomach. By not closing fully after food has entered the stomach, acid can travel up the esophagus, sparking common heartburn symptoms.4 Drinking carbonated drinks can also increase heartburn, especially at night.

Causes Of Acid Reflux In Women

Heartburn during pregnancy  Heartburn Diet

Here is a list of some common and not so common causes of acid reflux that women may experience. Eating or Drinking Acidic based Fruits. Smoking Milk or Milk-Based Products Fried Foods Hot or Spicy Foods Stress Pregnancy Women may experience anything from mild to major heartburn during pregnancy. It can also be different with the same mom and separate pregnancies. In other words, you may have no signs of heartburn or acid reflux with your first pregnancy but then when your second comes along, you could suffer for the full 9 months.If this is the case, youll really want to watch what you eat. A plant-based, grilled chicken type diet is best to follow. I wrote another post showing a diet plan to follow if you suffer from acid reflux. You can find it here.

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What Causes Heartburn

To know why heartburn happens, it can help to understand how your esophagus and stomach work. When you eat, the food passes down a long tube that connects your mouth and stomach. This tube is called the esophagus. At the bottom of the esophagus is a valve, called the esophageal sphincter. This valve opens to let food through and then closes to keep your stomach contents down. Inside your stomach is a very strong acidic mixture that starts the process of breaking down your food . Your stomach is designed to hold this mixture. However, your esophagus isnt able to hold this mixture without getting hurt.

Sometimes, the valve that separates your stomach and esophagus doesnt close properly, and some of the acidic mixture from your stomach goes back up the esophagus. This is called reflux. When you have reflux, youll often feel the burning sensation thats heartburn. There are a few medical conditions that can cause reflux and make you feel heartburn, including:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Hiatal hernia .
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease .
  • Certain medications, especially anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin.

Heartburn can also be caused by your eating habits including the foods you eat, how large your meals are and how close to bedtime you eat and certain lifestyle habits.

When Will It End

Heartburn symptoms are usually mild and manageable. Tell your healthcare provider if your heartburn is severe, if you spit up blood, or have dark-colored bowel movements. This is a sign of blood in your digestive tract. Fortunately, heartburn usually ends with the birth of your baby and your body goes back to its nonpregnant state.

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When Should I Call My Doctor About My Heartburn

Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, GERD, and Barretts esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.

You should contact your doctor if:

  • Your heartburn wont go away.
  • Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
  • Its hard or hurts to swallow.
  • Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
  • You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
  • You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks and you still have heartburn symptoms.
  • You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription medicines.
  • You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.

Heartburn Causes And Risk Factors

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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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Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms? Report any symptoms, such as abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, or vomiting.
  • How long have you had heartburn?
  • Have you had this problem before? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated? How did you respond to that treatment?
  • Have you had any signs of bleeding from your digestive system?
  • Have you had any difficulty swallowing when you eat or drink?
  • How much tobacco do you use? How much alcohol do you drink? How much caffeine do you drink?
  • Has your weight increased or decreased more than 5 lb recently?
  • Have there been any changes in your diet? Are you eating certain foods more often?
  • Have there been changes in your daily schedule, such as when you eat and when you go to bed?
  • Are you taking any nonprescription or prescription medicines? Bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to your appointment.
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help? Be sure to include lifestyle changes you have made.
  • What nonprescription medicines have you taken or used to treat your heartburn? Did they help?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Remember to take your heartburn symptom record to your doctor visit. Be sure to note any lifestyle changes you have made or nonprescription medicines you use.

Foods That Can Cause Heartburn

Heartburn affects more than 60 million Americans every month .

It is best described as a painful, burning sensation that occurs in the lower chest area.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid escapes into the esophagus, the tube that delivers food and beverages to your stomach.

Normally, stomach acid cannot escape into the esophagus because of a barrier called the lower esophageal sphincter. This is a ring-like muscle that naturally stays closed, and normally only opens when you swallow or belch .

However, in people with acid reflux, this muscle is often weakened. This is one reason why people with acid reflux experience heartburn .

Diet plays an important role in heartburn. Many foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows food to escape into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Here are 11 foods that can cause heartburn.

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How Is Heartburn Diagnosed

Often all that a health-care professional requires is a thorough history and physical to make the preliminary diagnosis of heartburn. To evaluate if there is any damage and how severe your heartburn is, the doctor my suggest some of the following tests:

  • Endoscopy: A flexible scope is passed down the esophagus to examine the esophagus as well as the stomach. Biopsies can be taken if indicated. This lets the doctor see if there is any obvious damage, and also eliminate other reasons for the patient’s symptoms .
  • Upper GI series : After drinking a liquid that coats the inside of the digestive tract, X-rays are taken. These X-rays will show the outline of the digestive system.
  • Ambulatory pH testing: This test measures the acidity in the esophagus via a small tube that goes through the nose into the stomach.

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