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Heartburn is a common condition that occurs when stomach acid is forced back up the esophagus. When this happens, a feeling of warmth or burning may occur in your chest. Frequent heartburn can signal a more serious problem; however, a little heartburn after a heavy, acidic meal once in a while is not necessarily cause for concern.
Stomach acid helps digest food and is extremely potent. It can cause damage when it makes its way back up the esophagus because of an inflamed or relaxed esophageal sphincter (a cylindrical muscle that maintains constriction of a natural body passage), which is supposed to close completely once food has traveled to the stomach. Unlike the stomach, with its protective layer of mucous, the esophagus does not have a protective lining covering the tube, which is why you experience heartburn symptoms.
Causes of Heartburn
A number of factors can increase your risk of experiencing heartburn.
- Foods and beverages associated with heartburn symptoms include fatty foods, chocolate, spicy foods, acidic foods, caffeine (including coffee, sodas and tea), alcohol and peppermint-flavored foods.
- Lying down immediately after a meal can cause acid to flow in an upward direction into the esophagus.
- Applying pressure to the stomach, such as with lifting, straining, coughing and wearing tight clothing, can increase the chances of heartburn.
- Obesity and being overweight
- Asthma patients with hard-to-treat asthma
- Those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Heartburn Treatment and Procedures
If you experience heartburn discomfort several times a week and it persists after antacids wear off, you should seek medical advice. Houston Methodist gastroenterologists will discuss your condition and recommend treatment options.
• Acid blockers (H2 receptor blockers)
• Proton pump inhibitors