Heartburn 101: Causes & Relief

Heartburn—you know the uncomfortable feeling all too well, but what causes it and how can you get some relief?Chili pepper

Causes
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. The result is an uncomfortable burning sensation in your throat and chest. Things that can trigger heartburn include the improper working of the muscles at the end of your esophagus, pregnancy, as well as some foods, beverages and medications. Effective relief of heartburn depends on the severity of your symptoms.

Relief
If you experience only occasional mild heartburn, simply taking over-the-counter medication and making a few dietary and lifestyle changes can likely provide relief.

• Avoid foods and beverages that trigger heartburn, including alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, chocolate, citrus, tomatoes, mint, full-fat dairy products and fatty or spicy foods.
• Don’t eat super size meals; instead eat small meals and snacks.
• Give your body time to start digesting foods before beginning to exercise.
• Don’t eat within three to four hours of going to sleep.
• Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t smoke.
• Talk with your doctor about taking medication. Antacid medication can help neutralize stomach acid and provide rapid relief of heartburn symptoms, however it can’t heal a damaged esophagus. H2 blocker medication can reduce the amount of stomach acid produced by your body. It works slower than antacid medication, but can provide longer lasting relief. Proton pump inhibitor medication can be used to virtually stop the production of stomach acid altogether, allowing your esophagus a chance to heal. Note though, that long-term use of such medication isn’t recommended.

If you experience severe or chronic heartburn, which is not relieved by taking over-the-counter medication and making dietary and lifestyle changes, surgery to strengthen or repair your anti-reflux valve may be necessary to prevent stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus.

To learn more about heartburn or for help finding relief, visit The Medical Center of Plano online or talk to your primary care physician.  If you would like a referral, call our Physician Referral line at 1-855-665-TMCP

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