What is Heartburn and How Can You Relieve Its Symptoms?
Most of us have experienced heartburn at some point or another, and it’s often very uncomfortable. But what exactly is heartburn and what can you do to relieve its symptoms?
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that some people experience in their chest or upper stomach. It is caused by a reflux of stomach acid which backs up into the esophagus, and is often more major at night, causing difficulty sleeping. It can be accompanied by other symptoms such as a sour taste in the mouth and feeling like food is stuck in one’s throat.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is often caused by unhealthy eating habits. Fatty, fried, and spicy foods, overeating, and especially consuming food or alcohol late at night can all increase the likelihood of heartburn. Other potential causes include smoking and drinking alcohol, the recurrence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating yogurt, food allergies, and certain medications.
How Can You Relieve the Symptoms of Heartburn?
- Limit foods or beverages that worsen heartburn, such as fatty and fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomato-based products, spicy foods, and chocolates.
- Eat meals earlier in the evening and avoid eating before lying down. This allows more time for stomach acid to settle before you go to bed.
- Lose weight. Being overweight can increase the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and aggravate heartburn.
- Elevate the head of your bed at least 6-8 inches. This puts the entire esophagus above the level of stomach acid at night.
- Take antacids. Antacids neutralize stomach acids and can quickly relieve heartburn symptoms.
- Take medications. Over-the-Counter medications such as H2 blockers (e.g., Tagamet, Zantac) and proton pump inhibitors (e.g., Prilosec, Prevacid) can help to reduce stomach acid producing and can also help to relieve heartburn.
Heartburn can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, but the good news is that it can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications. If you experience heartburn frequently and are concerned about its cause or severity, it is advisable to seek your doctor’s advice.