Heartburn: What is it and When to Worry?
Have you ever experienced a sudden burning pain in your chest that you cannot explain? If so, you might be experiencing heartburn that is caused by stomach acid. However, if pain continues for a long time, it might be best to seek medical attention.
What Exactly is Heartburn?
Despite its name, heartburn is not 100% related to heart attack or heart disease. Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest area. It is caused by your lower oesophagus sphincter (LES) that is located just below your rib cage.
When you eat, the valve 一 LES 一 relaxes to let your food go down to your stomach. If the LES muscles relax abnormally, it causes the LES to open too often and doesn’t close tight enough. This results in stomach acid seeping through the valve and creates a burning sensation.
Types of Food that Affect Stomach Acid
There are also certain types of food and drink that can increase your stomach acidity and relax the LES muscles:
- Citrus fruits
- Alcohol beverages
Typically, food that contains a high level of fat and oil may easily cause heartburn.
How to Prevent Heartburn and How to Treat it?
There are ways to prevent heartburn aside from avoiding foods with high fats and oil. You may try not to lie down at least 3 hours after eating to prevent acid reflux as this will press acid against gravity to the LES and oesophagus.
You may also try raising your upper body in bed to keep the acid down to your stomach.
Additionally, for frequent heartburn, you can treat heartburn with an antacid (a common drug to treat stomach acid) or histamine.
If the heartburn persists, you should seek a doctor. Usually, a doctor will prescribe you a proton pump inhibitors to reduce the production of acid altogether. When all medication fails, a minor surgery with an only small laparoscope is often needed.
Although heartburn usually stops by itself, it can still pose dangers if left unattended for an extended period.
There are a few complications that may be caused by untreated heartburn. These complications include ulcers that lead to bleeding and even oesophagus cancers.
If you experience persistent and recurring heartburn, please seek medical help or consult with a doctor anytime through Okadoc.
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