Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)
Gastroesophageal reflux is a digestive disorder caused by gastric acid rising from the stomach into the esophagus.
"Gastroesophageal" refers to the stomach and esophagus, and "reflux" means "to go up or back." Gastroesophageal reflux is, then, the entry of acidic stomach juices, or the return of food and liquids, to the esophagus.
Heartburn , also called acid indigestion , is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux.
Heartburn is described as a burning sensation in the chest starting behind the breastbone and moving up to the neck and throat, along with a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth. It can last from a few minutes to two hours and is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending over can trigger heartburn as well.
What causes gastroesophageal reflux?
It is believed to be the result of a condition called a hiatal or hiatal hernia, which affects the lower esophageal sphincter. As we said, the typical cause of heartburn is the entry of stomach acid into the esophagus.
When we eat, food passes from the mouth into a tube about ten inches long, called the esophagus. To enter the stomach, food must pass through an opening between the esophagus and the stomach.
This opening, the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the base of the esophagus, acts as a gate that allows food to pass into the stomach and closes to keep it there. When this muscle relaxes too often or for too long, it fails to close and acid enters the esophagus, irritating it and causing heartburn.
What is hiatal hernia?
Hiatal hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach is pushed up through the diaphragm (the muscle wall between the stomach and chest) and into the chest. Sometimes this causes heartburn.
What factors stimulate acidity?
Many things can stimulate heartburn. Heartburn is more common after eating too much before going to bed or bending over. Other things that can increase heartburn are pregnancy, wearing tight clothes that put pressure on your stomach, certain foods, and other things.
Things that can stimulate heartburn
Coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and other drinks that contain caffeine.
mints or menthol
foods with fats
Spicy foods (pizza, chili, curry)
The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Other medical causes of heartburn may include the following:
Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining).
In many cases, GER can be relieved through diet and lifestyle changes, under the direction of your doctor.
Some ways to control heartburn include the following:
Monitor the medications you take, as some may irritate the lining of the esophagus or stomach.
Give up smoking.
Control food intake and limit fatty or fried foods, mint, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, citrus fruits and juices, as well as tomato products.
Eat smaller portions.
Control alcohol consumption.
Do not lie down or go to bed immediately after a meal. Instead, wait a couple of hours.
Lose weight, if necessary. Take an antacid, as recommended by your doctor.
Raise your bed by putting a block of ten to twelve centimeters at the head of it.
try to eat two to three hours at least before going to sleep. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
Do not eat excessively.
Eat foods high in protein and low in fat.
Avoid tight clothing and belts.
Avoid foods and other things that trigger heartburn
Can acidity be dangerous?
If you only have heartburn once in a while, it's probably not serious. However, if the heartburn is continued, it can become esophagitis (inflammation of the lining of the esophagus). If esophagitis is severe, your esophagus may narrow and you may have bleeding or problems swallowing. Acidity can also cause ulcers.
Heartburn pain can be confused with pain associated with heart disease or heart attack. Seek immediate medical assistance if:
You suddenly have severe chest pain, or
The pain is accompanied by sweating, dizziness and nausea.
Severe heartburn may be due to a serious medical condition, such as abdominal organ rupture or a heart attack.
A doctor should also be consulted when heartburn persists, and when an over-the-counter antacid or heartburn reducer does not relieve the burning sensation in a short period of time (from a few seconds to five minutes).
Does taking antacids prevent heartburn?
Most people quickly get short-term relief from antacids. Antacids neutralize the acid your stomach makes.
However, antacids can cause diarrhea or constipation. Look for antacids that contain magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. (One causes constipation while the other causes diarrhea, so alternate the two.)
Some well-known antacids are: Malox, Mylanta, and Riopan. Follow product instructions.
What to do if the symptoms get worse?
If your lifestyle changes and antacids don't help, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe medication or perform some tests.
Tests might include x-rays to check for ulcers, a ph check to check for acidity in the esophagus, or an endoscopy to check for other conditions. For an endoscopy, a long, thin tube is inserted down your esophagus so your doctor can look at it. Your doctor may also check for H. pylori, a bacterium that can cause ulcers.
Is heartburn associated with heart attacks?
No. But sometimes chest pain can be mistaken for heartburn when it's really a symptom of heart disease. If you have any of the symptoms in the following chart, call your doctor.
Call your doctor if:
You have trouble swallowing or pain when you swallow.
You are vomiting blood.
Your stools are bloody or black.
You are presenting shortness of breath
You feel dizzy or dizzy.
You feel pain going from your neck to your shoulder.
You bathe in sweat when you have pain.
You have heartburn more often (more than three times a week) for two weeks.