Heartburn: How to Recognize It and What to Do about It

06. 19. 2017

It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of Americans experience heartburn on a weekly basis. But even if you don’t fall into this category, you’ve likely experienced heartburn on some occasion. Heartburn is one of the most common digestive symptoms, and it is caused by the presence of digestive acids in the esophagus.

Heartburn can produce a wide range of symptoms, and not everyone experiences heartburn the same way. The most common symptom is a burning sensation that occurs in the chest directly behind the breastbone. However, other symptoms may include:

  • Belching
  • A sour or bitter taste in the back of the mouth
  • Pressure in the chest area behind the breastbone
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Digestive discomfort that worsens when bending over or lying down

Occasional heartburn is no cause for worry, but it’s important to talk to your doctor if your symptoms increase in frequency or severity. This could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic digestive condition that can damage the esophagus if left untreated.

In most cases, heartburn can be reduced or even eliminated by making healthy modifications to your diet and lifestyle. In addition to talking to your doctor about treatment options, consider making some of these changes to help prevent the occurrence of heartburn:

  • Avoid fried or fatty foods. These take longer to digest and increase your odds of experiencing heartburn.
  • Identify your personal trigger foods and eliminate them from your diet. Common heartburn triggers include spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and citrus.
  • Eat slowly and keep your portions small. Overeating causes the stomach to become distended and may trigger heartburn.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight places pressure on the abdomen and encourages reflux.
  • Allow food to digest before lying down. Finish meals at least two to three hours before bedtime and avoid late-night snacking.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes contributes to heartburn in a number of ways.
  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol weakens the muscular ring that closes off the stomach from the esophagus.

With a wide variety of testing and treatment options available for heartburn, there’s no reason to continue suffering. Start today by making healthy changes that will improve your digestive symptoms, and don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns with your doctor. The sooner you get to the bottom of your digestive problems, the sooner you’ll be on the path to recovery!


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