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Heartburn can be described as a burning sensation in the chest. It occurs when stomach acid flows into the esophagus. The burning sensation, and sometimes pain, experienced intensifies when you eat a large meal, bend over, or lie down.
Heartburn is an issue that affects many Americans. A report from the American College of Gastroenterology shows that more than 15 million adults in the US experience the symptoms of heartburn daily. Almost everybody will experience the symptoms associated with pyrosis (heartburn) at some point in their life.
It is perfectly normal to experience heartburn every once in a while. If you experience it regularly, you should consult your doctor as it could be a symptom of acid reflux or other health conditions.
There are multiple causes of heartburn, where hiatal hernia, weakened cardiac sphincter, and pregnancy rank as the main causes. Heartburn may intensify when you engage in any of the following:
- Spicy food
- Drugs like ibuprofen
- Acidic juices
- Caffeinated beverages
- Carbonated drinks
- Acidic fruits like oranges
Categories of Heartburn
Heartburn is categorized into: mild and severe
Mild heartburn is bearable and usually lasts for a short while. Severe heartburn is accompanied by vomiting, cough, serious chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. Heartburn may be categorized as severe if it occurs frequently (three or more times a week).
Symptoms of Heartburn
Heartburn has a handful of symptoms. The feeling of burning or heat in the throat and chest region is the most common symptom. Below are a few other symptoms you may experience:
- Mild chest pain, especially when you lay down
- Hot, salty, acidic, or foul taste in the mouth
If you experience these symptoms regularly, you should consult your doctor. Continuous irritation may cause ulcers.
Diagnosis of Heartburn
There are four distinct ways heartburn can be diagnosed: manometry, pH test, endoscopy, and X-ray.
Before any of them are done, your doctor will first check your medical history and carry out a physical exam. After doing this, your doctor may be able to narrow down the root cause of the issue and determine the best way to address it.
In some cases, more testing may be needed.
Endoscopy – During this test, flexible scope with a camera is entered into the body and then used to check the lining and esophagus.
X-Ray – Before the X-ray is done, the patient will be asked to swallow a Gastrografin. With the X-ray machine, your doctor will be able to watch as the material enters the stomach. This test can check if the esophagus muscles are working well and if there are irregularities within the esophagus.
pH Test – This test is done to determine the amount of acid in the esophagus.
Manometry – This test is done when other tests fail or aren’t able to confirm the diagnosis. Manometry involves the use of specialized pressure monitors to make a diagnosis.
How to Treat Heartburn
Occasional heartburn can be addressed with home remedies and lifestyle changes. However, if it is severe or occurs regularly, your doctor may recommend the following:
Drugs like antacids are often prescribed by doctors as they can reduce the rate at which stomach acid is produced in our stomach.
While these medications can alleviate symptoms of heartburn, it is worth noting that they have side effects. Antacids, for example, can cause diarrhea. It’s essential that you should speak with a medical professional before taking antiacid medication!
How to Manage Heartburn
Your doctor may recommend you make drastic lifestyle changes to address or manage your heartburn. Below are a few things you may be asked to do:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid strenuous activities (including heavy lifting)
- Eat meals in smaller portions
- Quit smoking
- Try eating more than 3-4 hours before going to bed
- Follow a healthy diet rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins
- Don’t wear uncomfortable or tight-fitting clothes
- Lose weight or maintain a moderate weight
- Don’t overeat
- Try reducing alcohol and caffine consumption
- Limit intake of carbonated drinks, citrus juice, chocolate, and mint
- Try elevating your head when lying down
- Can heartburn cause a heart attack? Heartburn is in no way related to a heart attack. It is a symptom associated with acid reflux and other conditions.
- What is the best treatment for heartburn? There is no one-size-fits-all solution for addressing heartburn. Your doctor will recommend medication or lifestyle changes based on your symptoms.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!