Heartburn is felt as burning sensation in the chest region. It can occur anytime but is present often after having meals and lying down. Getting heartburn occasionally is normal and you can manage the symptoms by taking antacids and making lifestyle changes. But if the heartburn occurs frequently and interferes with the daily life you need to seek medical advice.
Heartburn Symptoms :
Burning pain will be felt in the chest after eating and it can also be felt at night. The pain would increase when the person lies down or bends over. There is every chance for mistaking heartburn symptoms for heart attack since sudden sharp pain will be experienced on the chest. You should consult your doctor if the pain occurs frequently and continues even after having antacid medications.
Heartburn Causes :
Stomach secretes various enzymes and acids for digestion of food particles. In this process some amount of acid is pushed back into the esophagus through the sphincter muscles. It can happen when the sphincter muscle is weakened or scarred which will eventually relaxes sending the stomach acid into the esophagus. The pushing up of acid from the stomach causes heartburn and becomes worse when you are lying down.
Risk Factors :
Heartburn can occur to anyone and is not a problem if it occurs rarely. Certain foods like fat items, fried foods, onions, garlic, black pepper, soft drinks, orange juice, tomato juice, chocolate drinks, coffee and vinegar can trigger acid reflux leading to heartburn.
If heartburn occurs frequently then it can cause gastro esophageal reflux disease in the long run. GERD can affect the soft lining of the esophagus and you may need to have prescription medicines for managing it.
Your doctor will order for imaging tests like X-ray of the digestive system for checking the presence of GERD. He may order for barium testing in which you have to drink chalky liquid that will make a clear coating on the lining of digestive tract. Endoscopy is done for examining the condition of esophagus. Ambulatory acid test is also done for measuring the level of acid in the esophageal region. In some cases, the doctor would conduct esophageal motility test for measuring the movement of esophagus.
Very often over the counter medications are good options for treating heartburn. Antacids like Gelusil or Maalox or Mylanta are effective in neutralizing the acid released from the stomach. However antacids should not be used regularly since it can cause side effects. Your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitors or H2 receptor blockers for treating heartburn. Medications like Cimetidine, Famotidine or Nizatidine are often given for managing acid reflux. Proton pump inhibitors like Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are effective in reducing the acid production on the stomach.
- Heartburn can be easily managed by making certain lifestyle changes.
- Do not overeat and stick on to large meals.
- Always eat smaller meals frequently. This will significantly reduce secretion of acid from the stomach.
- Maintain your weight in healthy line since your heart needs to pump extra blood and your stomach needs to work heavily if you have excess of pounds. Take tips from your doctor to lose weight in due course.
- Make a list of foods that triggers heartburn and avoid it in future.
- Don’t lie down after having meals. You should go to bed only after 3 hours of taking food.
- Keep your head in elevated position so that acid reflux cannot occur.