Why do I get heartburn?
You’ve just enjoyed your favorite spicy meal and now your chest and throat are burning and tight. You might feel as if you are having a heart attack. Why does this happen?
When you are chewing your food the saliva in your mouth starts the digestion process. Your food travels to your esophagus which sends the food to your stomach. Your esophagus and stomach are connected by your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that opens and closes allowing food to pass to your stomach and keeps the food and digestive acids in your stomach. Sometimes, the LES becomes weak and the stomach acids come back up the esophagus causing the burning sensation.
Severe heartburn could actually be gastrointestinal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD is also known as acid reflux.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux can impact the simplest daily activities, preventing you from eating the foods you love or keeping you up at night. But more importantly, if ignored or not effectively treated, it can cause permanent damage to your esophagus, leading to more threatening health problems such as bleeding, ulcers, scarring - even cancer.
If you experience persistent heartburn, contact your physician to determine if it's a result of acid reflux and to discover the steps you can take to find relief.
Symptoms of acid reflux
The most common symptom of acid reflux is persistent heartburn, associated with a burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours. Regurgitation (involuntary return of partly digested food from the stomach to the mouth) is also a relatively common complaint.
Other acid reflux symptoms include:
- Difficulty or painful swallowing
- Sour taste in mouth
- Feeling of food "sticking" in chest or throat
- Chronic cough, sore throat or hoarseness
- Frequent belching
- Excessive mouthwatering
- Bad breath
- Inflammation of gums
- Erosion of tooth enamel
Your physician can determine what is going on and help you with appropriate treatments. For mild heartburn symptoms you might need to make lifestyle changes like eating smaller meals more frequently.
For more severe symptoms or esophageal damage, long term medication or surgery may be required.
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