Causes Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. Thereâs often no obvious reason why.
Sometimes itâs 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
Heartburn Relief: Simple Remedies To Put Out The Fire
- The terms heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably, but heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux.
- Pay attention to the foods that trigger heartburn for you and eliminate them from your diet.
Heartburn occurs when the muscular valve between your stomach and esophagus loosens or doesnt completely close, allowing stomach acid to escape into your esophagus. You may be very familiar with the symptoms of heartburn that burning sensation just below your breast bone, that can rise up into your chest. You may also have a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. The terms heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably, but heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux.
If you experience occasional heartburn, there are simple things you can do to identify the cause, and ways to prevent the burn.
Things Doctors Do When They Have Heartburn
Large meals. Acidic foods. Alcoholic drinks. What do these things have in common? They’re often found at holidays and celebrations â and they’re also common heartburn triggers.
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Of course, triggers are individual, gastroenterologist David Poppers, MD, PhD, clinical professor in the department of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Yours might be something totally different, like onions, garlic, caffeine, chocolate or eating close to bedtime.
Whatever the culprit, stomach acid bubbling back up into your esophagus leads to that burning sensation in your chest, and it’s mighty unpleasant.
The best remedy for heartburn is to practice moderation when eating, especially when it comes to your trigger foods. Maintaining a healthy weight, and particularly avoiding excess visceral fat , is also important, Dr. Poppers says.
Of course, we’re not all perfect â even gastroenterologists aren’t immune to heartburn. So, we asked them how they handle it, as well as the best advice they give patients. Here’s how to feel better fast :
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How Do Acid Blockers Work To Treat Heartburn
Products like Pepcid AC® are called histamine H2 blockers, or acid blockers. Acid blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. They relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach. Always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to your healthcare provider about how to take this medication. Acid blockers you can buy without a prescription include:
- Pepcid AC®.
- Tagamet HB®.
Take your acid blocker medicine regularly for as long as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you do not have any pain or if your symptoms get better.
Stronger acid blockers are prescription medications. These can be used to block stomach acid, treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider will give you a specific prescription for this type of acid blocker.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recently reported elevated levels of a possible carcinogen, NDMA, in the drugs ranitidine and nizatidine . You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are taking one these medications.
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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Heartburn Relief Home Remedies For Heartburn
Heartburn is a common condition and can strike at any time. Thankfully, there are many ways to relieve heartburn symptoms when they flare up. Chewing an antacid such as TUMS is a first line option, particularly when you need fast relief however, home remedies and changing lifestyle habits can help, too dampening down the painful sensation you feel in your chest and throat.
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Making changes to your diet is a great way to help ease heartburn. You can start by avoiding foods that are likely to worsen your symptoms and then add in other nutritious foods. There are no specific diets for acid reflux, but these top 10 heartburn foods might help:
High fiber foods keep you feeling full for longer. This can stop you from overeating, which might trigger heartburn. Fiber-rich diets have also been linked to lower acid reflux risk. Eating whole grains like oatmeal and whole grain rice can help.
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes are great sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Try roasting, grilling, or broiling sweet potatoes with other root vegetables like beets and carrots. Roasting brings out sweeter flavors and avoids frying, which can trigger heartburn. Make sure to leave out the garlic and onions, which can be irritating.
Ginger is well known for its soothing digestive effects. It can help with gas, nausea, and bloating, and its anti-inflammatory, which can help soothe an irritated digestive system. If you normally enjoy coffee, try switching to ginger tea. You can add a slice of fresh ginger to a mug of hot water.
Fruits are part of a healthy diet, but citrus fruits can trigger heartburn. Instead, focus on eating watery fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Extra water can help dilute stomach acid and ease your symptoms.
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Why Do I Get Heartburn When I Havent Eaten
If you visit a doctor to talk about your heartburn, one of the first things they will ask is your diet.
As most people know and what we constantly mention, heartburn is often caused by what you eat and what you drink, so your doctor wants to be sure you are eating a diet that wont provoke any additional symptoms before moving into treatment options.
If youre getting heartburn without eating anything, here are some of the reasons:
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What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus are unable to prevent stomach acid from passing back into the esophagus. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the valve to relax, which can increase the frequency of heartburn. This allows stomach acid to pass into the esophagus and irritate the lining.Heartburn and indigestion are more common during the third trimester because the growing uterus puts pressure on the intestines and the stomach. The pressure on the stomach may also push contents back up into the esophagus.
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Finding Heartburn Relief At Home
A few simple strategies can help soothe the burn of heartburn:
- Watch what you eat. Avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods. Eat more fiber to keep your digestive tract moving and healthy. Also, reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
- Watch when you eat. Push away the plate at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
- Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
- Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
- Keep a diary. Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
- Toss the cigarettes.Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and so many other health reasons, it’s always the perfect time to quit.
- Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
- Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about 6 inches. Don’t bother raising your pillows, though — it’s not effective for heartburn.
When To See A Doctor For Heartburn
Occasional heartburn means that it happens less than once a week, and it often occurs when overeating or drinking alcohol, Dr. Greenwald says.
However, if your heartburn is frequent, meaning three or more times per week, you’re having it at night with regurgitation or have trouble swallowing, then those are red flags. “Don’t just take a couple antacids and ignore it,” he says.
Make an appointment with your health care provider, who may recommend tests or screenings to rule out more serious causes of these symptoms, such as precancerous changes.
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When To Seek Care For Heartburn
Dont ignore heartburn. Stomach acid can damage your esophagus and increase your risk of cancer. Sometimes natural remedies and over-the-counter medications are not enough to reduce your symptoms of heartburn, and prescription medications may be necessary.
- An Everyday Online visit is a convenient option for diagnosis and treatment of heartburn, as well as to help determine if your heartburn symptoms point to acid reflux or GERD .
- Schedule a virtual visit with a general practice doctor if lifestyle changes and medicines are not helping, if you have heartburn three to four times per week, or if you have other symptoms such as food getting stuck in your throat, vomiting or unintentional weight loss.
If you have more severe symptoms, such as chest pain, dark-colored vomit, black stools, persistent vomiting, or feel like you are choking, seek care in the Emergency Room right away.
Ways To Boost Your Mental Health
Sometimes, life comes at you fast. Other times, the hustle and bustle just manages to catch up with you. With it can come stress, anxiety, sadness or fear of the unknown all of which can impact your mental health.
Managing your feelings and handling everyday challenges is an important part of maintaining your overall well-being, but sometimes this is easier said than done.
Keeping up with your mental health can sometimes mean seeking support from a mental health professional, but it can also mean taking the everyday steps needed to boost your mental and emotional wellness.
Here are eight things you can do every day to boost your mental health:
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Signs And Symptoms Of Heartburn In Teens
The prominent symptoms of heartburn are burning sensation in the chest or throat and taste of acid or food in the mouth.
The following symptoms are often associated with heartburn :
- Sour taste
- Trouble in swallowing
- Sore throat
Your teen may experience heartburn while lying down or bending after eating. Although heartburn can be associated with a heart attack in adults, it may not apply to teens. This chest discomfort due to acid reflux can be alleviated with some over-the-counter antacids. However, if the problem persists, you may consult a doctor to identify the exact cause and treat it.
Fight Heartburn With Healthy Food
Add the right foods to your diet. They could really help with your heartburn. But there are limits to what they can do.
Remember that good foods can’t counteract the effects of trigger foods. “Eating a little ginger won’t stop you from getting heartburn after a big dinner of a fatty steak, a salad with tomatoes, a couple of glasses of wine, and a coffee,” Kuemmerle says.
And while eating a low-acid diet is a good strategy, it may not be enough on its own. For some people it’s not so much the acids in the stomach, but the reflux of other stuff in gastric juices — like bile — that trigger heartburn, he says.
“The specific causes of heartburn vary a lot from person to person,” Kuemmerle says. “That’s why treatment always needs a personalized approach.”
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How Long Does Heartburn Last
Heartburn can affect people differently. In general, heartburn symptoms begin shortly after eating and can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, or even longer.
How long you experience symptoms depends on the underlying cause. It also depends on what you do at the first sign of symptoms. For example, sometimes heartburn symptoms last until your body digests the triggering food. Other times, it goes away if you stand up instead of lying down after eating.
If you take OTC antacids or prescription medications as part of a treatment plan, you may experience a shorter duration or fewer heartburn symptoms.
Your esophagus connects to your stomach at a juncture known as the lower esophageal sphincter. If the lower esophageal sphincter is functioning properly, it closes when food leaves the esophagus and enters the stomach.
In some people, the lower esophageal sphincter doesnt function properly or it becomes weakened. This leads to contents from the stomach leaking back into the esophagus. Stomach acids can irritate the esophagus and cause symptoms of heartburn. This condition is known as reflux.
Certain conditions and other factors may make it more likely for you to experience heartburn. Risk factors include:
Avoid Spicy Foods And Keep Some Dazzle In Your Diet With Low
The fiery feeling of heartburn is the last way you want to remember a great meal. But when your doctor says you have chronic heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease , you may worry that a bland and disappointing menu is in your future. “That may not be true,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “The foods that trigger heartburn are different for everyone.” He suggests keeping a journal to determine which foods cause symptoms.
Some foods and ingredients may intensify heartburn, such as spicy foods, citrus, tomato sauces, and vinegar.
Fatty and fried foods linger longer in the stomach. That may increase stomach pressure and force open the muscles that keep stomach acid out of the esophagus.
Other common heartburn triggers include chocolate, caffeine, onions, peppermint, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.
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Foods That Heal Esophagitis
If your esophagus is very painful and inflamed, try adding some foods that heal esophagitis. These might include:
- Cooked fruits
All of these are easier to swallow than raw fruits and vegetables and tougher or more firm protein sources. They can feel more soothing on your throat and esophagus.
Some of these foods also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce pain and swelling in your esophagus.
What Are The Treatment Options
If you have heartburn, your provider may prescribe over-the-counter antacids, which may come in a chewable tablet. They might also recommend prescription drugs such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors, which reduce how much acid your stomach makes.
Providers may also recommend lifestyle changes, like losing weight and quitting smoking, which can increase stomach acid production. Other changes often include reducing stress, exercising more, avoiding food around bedtime, raising the head of the bed about 6 inches, and eating more high-protein, low-fat meals.
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Tests And Surgery For Heartburn And Acid Reflux
If medicines do not help or your symptoms are severe, a GP may refer you to a specialist for:
- tests to find out what’s causing your symptoms, such as a gastroscopy
- an operation on your stomach to stop acid reflux called a laparoscopic fundoplication
Page last reviewed: 09 September 2020 Next review due: 09 September 2023
Side Effects From Misuse
Many of the side effects of antacids come from not taking them as directed.
Many antacids including Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums contain calcium. If you take too much or take them for longer than directed, you could get an overdose of calcium. Too much calcium can cause:
Excess calcium can also lead to alkalosis. In this condition, your body doesnt make enough acid to function properly.
If you feel like you need to use a lot of an antacid for relief, that might be a sign of another condition. If youve taken an antacid according to the directions and havent gotten relief, talk to your doctor.
Antacids can interfere with the function of other drugs. If you take other medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist before using antacids.
Some antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, contain aspirin. The Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert about this type of antacid in June 2016. This alert was issued because of reports of serious bleeding related to aspirin-containing antacids.
If you take another medication that increases your risk of bleeding, such as an anticoagulant or antiplatelet drug, you shouldnt take these antacids.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking aspirin-containing antacids if you:
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