Heartburn, also known as reflux, is caused by the stomach’s acidic content coming up into the esophagus. In addition to this acid reflux, it can give a burning sensation in the chest and abdominal pain. Often you can alleviate and prevent the symptoms yourself. Heartburn is particularly common in pregnant women, but anyone can be affected.
Heartburn is caused by gastric juices coming into contact with the esophagus. Acid reflux is due to poor closure of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing the stomach’s acidic content to rise from the stomach and enter the esophagus. The leakage caused by reflux can cause inflammation of the esophagus, called esophagitis.
Heartburn happens more easily when the pressure on the stomach increases, for example, during pregnancy, heavy physical work, or when someone is overweight.
In a addition, heartburn is often caused by fatty foods, sour drinks, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Symptoms may also occur due to a gastric ulcer.
Dyspepsia is a collective diagnosis of pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen – acid reflux can be one of the symptoms.
Reflux is characterized by an acidic taste in the mouth, regurgitation, and heartburn. Some also experience abdominal pain in the middle of the upper abdomen or a burning sensation behind the sternum during meals and at night. The problem usually gets worse when lying down. Some may experience a lumpy feeling in the throat or prolonged reticulated cough, especially in the morning.
Heartburn is a symptom that can be associated with gastric ulcer.
Prevention and protection
To handle heartburn, it helps to have several, small meals a day. You can also try to sleep in a more upright position, to prevent gastric juices reaching the esophagus. Also, remember not to lie down immediately after the meal – this is the time when the stomach secretes most gastric juices and so the heartburn will feel worse. If you are overweight, it helps to lose weight.
Heartburn can also be relieved by avoiding:
- fatty and spicy food
- citrus fruits, sour berries and soft drinks
- anti-inflammatory drugs
Heartburn usually goes away by itself. Otherwise you can try to avoid stress, certain foods and choose non-prescription drugs that neutralize stomach acid. There are also prescription medications that form a protective layer over the contents of the stomach and thus prevent acid reflux. Prolonged discomfort sometimes causes damage to the mucous membrane of the esophagus; there are drugs that treat this inflammation. In some cases, there is a reason to examine the esophagus and stomach more closely with the help of a gastroscopy.
In the case of multiple symptoms, the entire disease picture must be weighed to determine which treatment is needed.
When to consult a doctor
If you have trouble swallowing, you should contact your healthcare provider. This also applies to heartburn that does not disappear – or if you have never had heartburn before, especially if you are over 50.
In case of involuntary weight loss and reduced appetite, you should also seek medical attention.
If you have heartburn in combination with black stools or severe stomach or chest pain, you should get emergency help.
How APPOTEK can help
You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with heartburn. A nurse or a doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the care meeting. You may then be prescribed medicines or referred for further treatment.
Bear in mind that if your child has a problem, they need to see a health practitioner.