What causes heartburn and how to get rid of it

Heartburn can be a complicated medical issue. A wide variety of different things can cause it, from food to medical conditions. If you want to know what causes heartburn and how to treat heartburn symptoms, this article will provide information about everything heartburn.

Heartburn 101

Content from the gastric system that contains hydrochloric acid is responsible for the majority of heartburn symptoms. When this content flows backwards from the stomach, the muscular tube called the oesophagus becomes inflamed. This leads to the development of a burning sensation.

If you’ve never experience heartburn before and are wondering what does heartburn feel like, imagine a burning sensation that starts at the centre of the rib cage and continues upwards towards the end of the throat.

Occasional heartburn is known as acid indigestion. This is common in people whose condition is triggered by eating specific foods. However, people who suffer from constant heartburn have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD for short. To help, heartburn remedy tips such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine can reduce the promotion of reflux and prevent symptoms from ever appearing.

GERD may require prescription only medications and, occasionally, surgery or other procedures to help maintain symptoms and gut health. Not treating GERD can lead to serious complications including precancerous changes in the oesophagus called Barrett’s oesophagus.

If you think you could be showing signs and symptoms of GERD or heartburn, talk with your doctor and ask questions similar to “What does heartburn feel like?” to get a better understanding. Identifying symptoms can make diagnosis and treatment easier.

Recognise heartburn symptoms & getting diagnosed

Recognising heartburn symptoms can help in the quest of learning how to stop heartburn. Getting ahead of symptoms and treating them as soon as they are notice should help ease discomfort and provide heartburn relief.

Three of the main symptoms include:

  • A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating or only during the night.
  • Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over.
  • Acidic or bitter taste in the mouth.

If you notice any of these symptoms after eating a particular food, tests may need to be performed in order to understand if your heartburn is a symptom of GERD.

Your doctor may recommend a variety of different tests:

  • X-ray – paints a clear picture of the shape and condition of the oesophagus and stomach.
  • Endoscopy – checks for abnormalities in the oesophagus. If any abnormalities are seen, a tissue sample can be taken for analysis.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests are used to identify when and for how long stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. A monitor is placed in the oesophagus that is then monitored via a computer that is worn around the waist or over the shoulder.
  • Oesophageal motility testing – measures the movement and pressure in the oesophagus.

Once a test or multiple tests have been completed, a doctor should have sufficient enough evidence to make a diagnosis decision.

Seeking heartburn relief and cures

If tests have shown that GERD or heartburn is likely, there is no heartburn cure but plenty of medications can provide long-term or short-term relief. Over-the-counter heartburn tablets should be one of the first treatment options considered.

Antacids are heartburn tablets that neutralise the acid in the stomach to relieve indigestion and heartburn. Available as a liquid or chewable tablets, they can be bought from the majority of pharmacies and supermarkets. Using antacids as a heartburn remedy should provide quick relief but should not be used long-term, as they don’t treat the underlying cause.

H-2-Receptor antagonists (H2RAs) reduce stomach acid. They don’t work as quickly antacids, but may provide longer relief. Side effects whilst taking H2RAs are minimal, with many people not experiencing any.

Lastly, proton pump inhibitors such as Lansoprazole and Omeprazole can also help reduce stomach acid.

If anyone online with the claim of having medical expertise offers you a heartburn cure or they know how to stop heartburn, and doesn’t have medical identification, it will more than likely be a scam. Ignore them and continue following your doctors advice.

In some cases if heartburn tablets aren’t providing heartburn relief and aren’t responding to other treatments, surgery may be recommended.

On the other hand, if GERD wasn’t present, your heartburn may have just been…heartburn. Knowing how to get rid of heartburn at home can be a lifelong skill. There are many different home remedies for heartburn that you can try by yourself.

Home remedies for heartburn

  • Don’t overeat; the oesophagus has an opening into the stomach that has a ring like muscle known as the lower sphincter. It prevents the acidic contents of the stomach from going up towards the oesophagus. When you swallow, burp or vomit it will naturally open up. Otherwise, it will stay closed. Avoid large meals.
  • Follow a low-carb diet; undigested carbs in the digestive system causes gassiness and the feeling of being bloated. This leads to more belching, thus opening the lower oesophagus sphincter more often.
  • Decrease alcohol intake. Alcohol aggravates symptoms by increasing stomach acid, relaxing the lower sphincter and impairing the ability of the oesophagus of clearing itself.
  • Chew gum. Findings have shown that chewing gum, along with the associated increase in saliva produced, helps clear the oesophagus of acid.

Your doctor may be able to recommend other home remedies for heartburn. If you have trouble coping with constant heartburn symptoms or don’t know how to get of heartburn effectively, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Indigestion and heartburn pregnancy

Heartburn pregnancy is common and can be caused by hormonal changes or the growing baby pushing against the stomach. Any heartburn medications that are safe to use during pregnancy can be used to help provide heartburn relief.

First time pregnancies are more like to suffer from heartburn because of hormonal changes; the baby pressing against the stomach, or acid has been allowed to come back up because of the muscles between the gullet and stomach relaxing.

If you’ve been pregnant before, had indigestion heartburn pregnancy before, or are in the later stages of pregnancy, you’re more likely to experience heartburn.

Complications of severe gastro-oesophageal reflux disease

A number of possible complications can occur due to have GERD over a long period of time.

Oesophageal ulcers

Due to the damage caused by GERD, ulcers can begin to form on the lining of the oesophagus. The ulcers can bleed and cause pain, making it difficult to swallow and eat food.

Medications mentioned above, such a proton pump inhibitors, can help ulcers heal by lowering the amount of acid released into the oesophagus.

Scarred and narrow oesophagus

The oesophagus can become damaged and scarred due to repeatedly being damaged by stomach acid, making it difficulty to swallow. The correct medical term for this condition is oesophageal stricture.

If this occurs, a procedure to widen the oesophagus with a variety of different devices, including balloon dilators will be used.

Barrett’s oesophagus

Repeated episodes of GERD can lead to changes in the cells in the lining of the lower oesophagus. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people with GERD will develop Barrett’s oesophagus, typically after many years.

Other than the typical symptoms of GERD, Barrett’s doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. Barrett’s can lead to the cells located in the oesophagus change and potentially becoming cancerous. You’ll likely need to have endoscopy every few years to keep check.

Oesophageal cancer

1 in every 10-20 people diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus will develop oesophageal cancer within 10-20 years.

Symptoms of Oesophageal cancer:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent indigestion
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent cough and/or coughing blood
  • Vomiting
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