Heartburn or gastric irritation happens when acid from the stomach gets pushed back to the esophagus—the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach—causing an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, which can rise even to the neck and throat. It can also cause a bitter or sour taste in the back of the throat.
Normally, when food enters the stomach, a ring of muscles located at the tip of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (SLE) closes. However, if this ring does not close properly, the contents in the stomach can return into the esophagus and cause irritation and heartburn.
Suffering from heartburn is very common and can usually be treated with antacids that can be purchased without a prescription. This condition is usually called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), or simply reflux.
What Are the Symptoms of Heartburn?
- Burning sensation in the chest, next to the sternum, which usually begins after eating and lasts from minutes to hours.
- Chest pain, especially when leaning forward, lying down, or eating.
- Burning in the throat.
- Hot, bitter, acid, or salty liquid coming from the back of the throat.
- Difficulty swallowing.
Is there Treatment Available?
Treating heartburn starts at home. All you need to do is to be aware of your problem and to begin making small changes in your habits. The following tips will help you prevent heartburn and other symptoms that may show:
- Avoid foods and beverages that may trigger acid reflux, such as alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate, juices, citrus fruits, mint and peppermint, spicy and fatty foods.
- Do not bend over or exercise immediately after eating.
- Do not lay down full; this causes the contents in the stomach to exert more pressure on the sphincter.
- Eat meals in small portions.
Although heartburn is very common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, and esophageal cancer.
You Should Contact your Doctor if:
- The symptoms of heartburn become more severe and frequent.
- Pain and difficulty when swallowing food.
- There is vomiting caused by acidity.
- Substantial and unexpected weight loss.