Heartburn is a common digestive tract problem faced by many Americans as well as people all over the world. Heartburn has nothing in common with heart although people get confused with both due to symptom similarity and location. In a true sense heartburn is solely a problem of inflammation of esophagus (the food pipe).
Pyrosis is a medical word for heartburn. The condition is characterized by typical sensation of heat, warmth, burning or pain in chest and beneath the breastbone (sternum). On some occasions the sensation may radiate to neck or arms.
Heartburn occurring occasionally may not be a serious problem; it can be managed with lifestyle modification and change in dietary habits. However, if the condition is frequent and interferes in day to day routine life, the person needs to consult his doctor.
What Are The Main Causes Of Heartburn?
Actually heartburn occurs due to reflux of gastric or duodenal content in the esophagus. It is a result of incompetent lower esophageal sphincter. Esophageal sphincter is muscular band at the bottom of esophagus. When we gulp food or liquid it relaxes and allows the food or liquid to enter in the stomach. It then closes tightly to prevent re-entry of the gastric content.
But when this muscular band is defective or weak, it does not close as it should and allows re-entry of stomach acids and content back into the lower esophagus. It leads to inflammation of lower end of esophagus and the condition is termed as heartburn. The condition worsens in supine position or when the person is bending over, gardening or lifting large objects or lying down in the bed on the right side.
After understanding the mechanism behind heartburn, let us know the causes which lead to it.
- Reflux esophagitis, gastric and duodenum ulcers, hiatus hernia.
- Drugs such as aspirin and certain other types of medications.
- Faulty diet such as excess consumption of spicy and oily food. Alcoholism and cigarette smoking. Ingesting too much of citrus fruit juices.
- Obesity and certain types of syndromes such as Zollinger Ellison syndrome.
- Functional: sometimes due to repressed emotions a person may complain of heartburn.
- Pregnancy, particularly in third trimester can cause heartburn.
Common Symptoms Of Heartburn
Although not a serious disease in most cases, heartburn is often uncomfortable for an individual who has it. There are not many symptoms of heartburn, but the ones that are typical include;
- Burning sensation below the breastbone and in the middle of the chest after a meal which lasts for some minutes to few hours.
- Chest pain related to posture such as after lying down on the back, or while bending or after eating.
- Sensation of burning in the throat. Feels something sour and acidic content present in the throat.
- Mouth gets filled with liquid called water brash.
- Sensation as if food has stuck in the chest.
- Sometimes chronic cough, sore throat and hoarse voice are result of chronic heartburn.
Natural Remedies For Heartburn
Besides the regular OTC drugs such as antacids and prescription drugs such as H2 blocker and proton pump inhibitors, there are several other natural ways and home remedies found effective in treating heartburn. They are as follows;
- Posture modification: Avoid bending after meal. Keep your head high 6 to 9 inches when you are sleeping horizontally, this can be done by elevating the head side of the bed. Lie down in the left lateral position.
- Do not over eat. Eat less spicy and oily food. Eat two hours prior to retiring in the bed.
- If you are obese, try to reduce weight.
- Avoid caffeinated colas, teas, coffee. Also restrict alcohol and cigarette smoking.
- In case of pregnancy related heartburn, eat smaller meals frequently instead of three large meals.
- Eat 5 to 6 soaked almonds when you are suffering from heartburn.
- Eat fresh apples when you have heartburn.
- Drink cold milk mixed with a pinch of cardamom and cinnamon powder.
- Sage tea and ginger tea can also relieve heartburn instantly.
- Juice of raw potato is also found effective in treating heartburn.